Leipzig, London, and Cambridge

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Lutherhaus, Wittenberg, where the founder of the Reformation lived 500 years ago.

On Friday, November 3, I was bound for a week of teaching in Germany.  Walked several blocks to catch the #721 bus that would take me to the Metro, then west to Dulles Airport.  It didn’t show.  Luckily, a taxi was at hand, and was on the Metro, then the bus, then out to the big airport with plenty of time before my British Airways flight departed.  Flew to London on a 747, an airplane that is soon to disappear from the skies after almost 50 years of flight (United Airlines in the USA retired its last, and Delta soon will).  It was a great ride: plane was packed (I was in economy), but the BA cabin crew were spectacular.  After dinner, I stood up to use the washroom, and gazed around the back section of the plane: it was a perfect vignette of the power of flight to improve our lives.  Every person had a story; next to me were German high-school students returning from a two-week exchange in Charlottesville.  “Did you have a good experience?” I asked.  “We loved it.  All of it.”  And I thought (as I often do) “Rob, you spent a career in the right business.”  Watched two movies, barely slept, but it’s a fast flight to Heathrow.

Changing planes, I spotted lots of people wearing Remembrance poppies, in anticipation of November 11.  I asked a Pakistani cleaner if he knew where in the airport I might buy one; he took his off and handed it to me.  Nice!  Short flight to Frankfurt, and was in Germany by 11.  Hopped on the Deutsche Bahn ICE (fast train) for my destination, Leipzig, and Germany’s oldest business school, once the Handelshochschule Leipzig, now the HHL Graduate School of Management.  I was hungry, and it was time for a reminds-me-of-childhood treat, lunch in the dining car, called Bordrestaurant in Germany.  But no, because it was in the other part of a two-part train, and two locomotives were back to back, so you couldn’t get there from here.

At the main station in Frankfurt, a German fellow sat down across from me.  In no time we were yakking.  Ebbi was from Thuringia (in the former East Germany). He learned his English from a former British Army officer who married a woman from his village.  The Brit and his frau now live in New Zealand, and Ebbi waxed enthusiastic about his many visits there.  He has a sister in Winnipeg that he often visits.  A good job with a gas-storage tank company makes possible all the travel (he had been on every continent, including Antarctica).  Toward the end of the chat, I mentioned that his home state of Thuringia was in the former East Germany (GDR).  “Yes,” he replied, “and it was not so bad then.  We had everything we have now.  Except travel.  We could not travel.”  “Well,” I said, “you’ve clearly made up for that!”  It was a great T-t-S.

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Ebbi from Thuringia

I arrived Leipzig at 4:30, walked just a couple of blocks to the Marriott (unaccustomed to such posh digs!), checked in, and made fast for the hotel gym.  Cranked out 15 miles.  That stint had been in the plan for weeks and it was totally the best thing to do, to refresh after a long ride.  Showered, put on jeans, and ambled south on Nikolaistrasse, past the University of Leipzig, to the Bayerische Bahnhof, a former train station turned microbrewery in restaurant.  I visited on my first, very brief visit to Leipzig in 2010, and was glad to be back in a place with the splendid slogan, In vollen zügen geniessen – enjoy it in full.  And I did!  First order of business was a large glass of Gose, a local specialty that’s top-fermented, slightly salty, rich in vitamins, and according to an advertisement from 1900, “nerve strengthening.”  Had a nice dinner of zander, a lake fish I really enjoy.  Hopped a local train back to the hotel and got a tonic 10 hours of sleep.

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Tucked into a big breakfast (morning spreads in nice European hotels are awesome), out the door, and onto a Nextbike (shared system), west to the school where I would be teaching half of a marketing-basics course for five days – it was good to know in advance how to get there.  Next stop, and the main event of the morning, Sunday worship at the (Lutheran) Thomaskirche, the place where J.S. Bach was music director from 1723 until his death in 1750.  It was just five days after the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, when Martin Luther began his protest again Catholic goofiness by nailing his “95 Theses” to the door of the Schlosskirche in nearby Wittenberg .  There’s apparently some debate about whether he actually hammered them up, but no matter: he was ready to protest, and what he did on October 31, 1517, changed the world.  The church was still celebrating, in this case by welcoming the chorale of Valparaiso University, a Lutheran liberal-arts college in northern Indiana.  It was celestial, marvelous.  Singing German hymns) is always a good way to practice my pronunciation.  And the third was in English, written by the former choir director at St. Olaf College, Linda’s alma mater.  It was a full worship, nearly two hours.

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Views (above and below) of the Thomaskirche

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Hopped back on a Nextbike, but mechanical troubles slowed me down; the chain came off, resulting in black hands.  Parked it and set off for a walk around the center.  The built environment was as I remembered from 2010. The architecture clearly showed that Leipzig was a prosperous city in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Nice little signs and photos attached to lightpoles documented the city’s important role in ending the oppressive East German regime in 1989.

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January 15, 1989: the first demonstration in Leipzig for basic democratic rights.  Some 500 people gathered and marched.  The Stasi (East German secret police) arrested organizers, but because of protests in East Germany and globally, they were forced to release the detainees after a few days.

 

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Grabbed a sandwich, back to the hotel room, light lunch and nap, then down to the gym.  Showered and headed out the door, but not before a wonderful T-t-S with Professor Hutchinson of the aerospace engineering faculty at the University of Texas at Austin.  It began in the elevator with my comment about his University of Utah sweatshirt.  He knew a lot about satellite remote sensing.  I mentioned by geography background, and we dove deeper.  My head was spinning from stuff he worked on, such as the ability to detect the depth of groundwater from space.  Whoa!  Hopped onto tram 12 to the Gohlis neighborhood and Ohne Bedenken (roughly “No Worries,” a good name for a tavern). The place opened in 1905, though clearly it has seen many changes through 112 years!  This place was old school, a neighborhood bar, just a wonderful vibe.  Like the night before, homemade Gose and a nice “Sunday dinner” of pork, fried potatoes, and red cabbage.  Yum.

Monday morning, out the door by Nextbike to the school.  Nadine, an assistant, welcomed me and set me up in a really nice office.  I had the morning free.  Lunch with doctoral students in the Mensa (student cafeteria), then time to stand and deliver to the Blue Group, first of two sets of new MBA students.  Hugely diverse – a combined 68 students from 30 nations!  The format for the week was a trio of three-hour lectures to each of the two groups.  Day one got off to a good start.   Ate dinner that night in Auerbachs Keller, a venerable place (main dining room opened 1914)  that had the appearance of coasting on its laurels.  Lots of tourists.  They brought me an English menu but when I asked for a large dark beer in credible German, I surprised the dour waiter.  Food was good.  But when the bill arrived, they said “no credit cards.”  I was almost out of cash, so had to walk several blocks to an ATM.  Not happy.  And to add insult to injury, they had cleared my table and took away a half-full glass of beer.  But in the modern era you can get even: I drilled them in a review on the TripAdvisor website.

Days two and three went past in a blur; six hours of teaching per day is a lot of work.  The days were nicely punctuated with a swell dinner (back at the Bayerischer Bahnhof) with my host Manfred Kirchgeorg.  A swell fellow, he earned his Ph.D. in Münster, another one of my lecturing venues, and had been at HHL since the mid-1990s.  The school had an interesting story: founded in 1898, obviously swirled through plenty of change under the Nazis and the Commies, and was re-established in the 1990s after the collapse of the East.  Wednesday night I needed spice, and Binh, a student from Vietnam, recommended a great Vietnamese place two blocks from the hotel.

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The business school is adjacent to the public University of Leipzig, which was one of the centers of the East German sports-doping machine; I think the sculptures were from that era.

I had the day off on Thursday, woo hoo!  There were a bunch of possibilities, made possible by a sort of Eurailpass just for the state of Saxony: unlimited travel the whole day for about 30 bucks.  Ate a big breakfast and hopped on the train north to Wittenberg, where Luther lived and worked.

I wanted to see the famous door, and a bit more.  Walking into the old town, it was clear that they had prettied things up in anticipation of the 500th anniversary – as well as the overall improvements in infrastructure that the federal government has been making since reunification (it didn’t look this shiny when East German creeps like Walter Ulbricht ran things).  Jack and I visited in 1999, and even then it was much less polished.  I paused briefly at Lutherhaus, the former monastery where he lived and worked for many years, then on to the famous church and the door.  The bell tower was open (just above the inscription Ein Feste Burg ist Unser Gott (“A Mighty Fortress is Our Lord,” a hymn Luther wrote about 1527) that wrapped around the circular tower.  So I paid 3€ and climbed several hundred steps for a view of town.  Check and done, stopped to buy a little pin that said “Protestant seit (since) 1517,” and hopped back on the train for Leipzig.

 

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The original door was destroyed in a big fire in 1760; this decorative metal door is from the mid-19th Century, and includes the 95 Theses.

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Detail of the new Schlosskirche door, and ceiling

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Wittenberg was also home to Lucas Cranach the Elder, a painter and muralist who was a contemporary of Luther; detailed wall painting and decorated plaster is still a trade in town (right and below)

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At that point, I could have headed east for a very fast look around Dresden, or to the World Dog Show 2017, staged at the Leipzig Messe, the big fair facility on the edge of town.  I thought that Henry and MacKenzie would lean toward the latter, so hopped off the train at the Messe station, onto a tram,  and in no time was in the vast facility.  It was day one of the show, and it was teeming, mostly with German breeds, including many that are (to me at least) unknown in the U.S.  It was a fun afternoon, but you had to pay attention to the floor: it was clear that the competing dogs get something like stage fright jitters, frequently peeeing and squatting, and owners not always cleaning up.  Ewww.

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Dog diving was an open competition!

Back to the hotel, the gym, then a return to Ohne Bedenken for beer and a dinner of roast duck.  The place was hopping, much busier than four nights earlier, including a lot of Bohemian folk, heavily tattoed, and many sporting stretched circular earlobes (according to Wikipedia: “Tribes in various countries in Africa, Eurasia, America and other lands have practiced the ritual of ear stretching for cultural, religious and traditional purposes.”).  Waiting for the tram back home, I had a nice T-t-S with the owner of an English Setter; like me, both woman and dog had been at the show that afternoon.

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Friday morning, out the door on the bike for the last three hours of teaching.  At lunch, and for four more hours, I met one-on-one with students who wanted to talk about career, nine youngsters all told, from China, Taiwan, Sudan, India, Kenya, Chile.  Some had clear ideas of a future job, other had no idea.  So I offered some tips and ideas, and lots of encouragement.  That was all good, but I was happy to say Auf Wiedersehen at five, hop on the tram home to the hotel, and finish a week of hard work.

After a ride in the gym, a shower, and a sandwich in the hotel room, I walked through heavy rain to the Gewandhaus, Leipzig’s famous concert hall.  Months earlier, I checked the website, and while the orchestra was touring Japan, visiting ensembles performed.  That night was what in America we call a “pops concert,” the visiting Brandenburg State Orchestra of Frankfurt (the smaller Frankfurt, southeast of Berlin) performing scores from famous films. It was really fun, from Alfred Newman’s opening fanfare for 20th Century Fox (you know the one!) to John Williams’ theme from “Star Wars.”  I had a seat in the front row, just fabulous.

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The famous Leipzig Gewandhaus

Below the huge pipe organ was Latin I did not recognize, res severa verum gaudium: true joy is a serious thing. Indeed.  Before the concert began, Manfred found me, and introduced me to his wife and a number of marketing colleagues from across Germany, who were in town for a meeting.  We met at intermission for a glass of sparkling wine.  The penultimate work was Williams’ main theme from “Schindler’s List,” another fine datapoint for Germany’s will not to deny the past.  I kept trying to think of an analogy from back home; would it be the Kansas City Symphony playing a Lakota song of death?  Would they include that in a pops program?  Nope.  At the end of the piece, I looked at the woman sitting two chairs to my right. She had gray hair, and it looked as if she had been born about the time that World War II ended. She was wiping away tears.

Manfred invited me for a post-concert drink at a fancy hotel, but I was plumb wore out, and a soft bed was so welcome.

No work on Saturday, but was still up early, down to the gym, then a nice big breakfast.  Last stop in Leipzig was to see at least one stolperstein (literally “stumbling stone”), the small brass memorials on sidewalks that mark the former homes of Jewish families the Nazis sent to death.  I rode a Nextbike a mile to Alexanderstrasse 46, where the Prinz family lived with their five kids.  The family fled to Brussels in 1939, where two more children were born.  All nine were deported to Auschwitz and murdered.  It was the morning after the 79th anniversary of Kristallnacht, and candles had been placed next to the markers.  Never forget.

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Memorial stolpersteinen to remember the Prinz family

 

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More wonderful architectural detail in central Leipzig

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A mural next to my hotel, celebrating peace and democracy; things are much better today.

Packed my bags, answered a few emails, and at 11:29 hopped on the train to Frankfurt.  Happily, the dining car was working smoothly, and I enjoyed a big bowl of lentil soup and a beer while we sped west through gently rolling countryside in Saxony, Thuringia, and Hesse.  Without looking at a map showing state boundaries, it’s always interesting to look out a German train window and try to tell from the landscape if you are in the former East Germany.  On that ride, I happened to glance out near a place called Gerstungen and spotted a couple of Soviet-era searchlights.  The border was a dangerous place from 1945 to 1989.

Got a local train to Wiesbaden, a historic spa town that I enjoyed on my only prior visit, in 2014.  I needed an overnight locale close to Frankfurt airport, but don’t like airport hotels, so it seemed a good choice.  Like my visit three years earlier, it was raining steadily on arrival.  My price-is-right-for-one-night hotel was a mile from the station, and the walk was damp, but the room was great value for $65.

I was a little unhinged on arrival, I think because when you stay in one place for a week, you get settled.  A quick nap helped.  Read a bit, and did some online scouting of restaurants.  Bingo!  The Ratskeller (restaurant in the basement of the town hall) was only three blocks away, so I set off in light rain at 5:30.  I’m glad I did: it was a cool place, already busy, but I found a table and got a dark beer and – for a second consecutive Saturday – a plate of zander, this time with broccoli and potato cakes.  So yummy.  Was asleep by 8:30, because the alarm was set for 4:20!

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Ratskeller, Wiesbaden

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A critter from Steiff, the German maker of the world’s best stuffed animals

Woke 20 minutes early at 4:00, out the door, and onto the 4:41 suburban train to Frankfurt Airport.  Bought a large Starbucks and woke up, then flew to London Heathrow.  Grabbed some yogurt and a sweet bun for breakfast, then hopped on the Heathrow Express to the center, then two Tube rides, and by 10 I was in St. Paul’s Cathedral for Remembrance Sunday services.  It was a touching event, done in the grand ceremonial style for which the Brits are well known.  Lots of officers (and a prince!) in fancy uniforms with plumes and color, and plenty of regular soldiers, sailors, and flyers in ordinary uniforms. We remembered the sacrifice of all who gave their lives.  For the second day, the commandment: never forget.  I looked heavenward, up beyond Sir Christopher Wren’s soaring dome, and thanked my father.

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Soldiers leaving Remembrance Sunday service, St. Paul’s

Hopped the Tube to Victoria Station and met a couple of young friends with a cool start-up idea, then back across the center to King’s Cross Station and a fast train north to Cambridge, my 23rd visit to that storied place.  As the train approached the city – and the low hum of brainpower could almost be heard – I was struck by the growth of a suburban office park, clear evidence of the spreading effect of university knowledge.  I was in my customary digs at Sidney Sussex College by 3:45, and down for a much-needed nap.

I almost always arrange my Cambridge arrivals for Sunday afternoon, to join Evensong in the college chapel at six, then, by tradition, a glass of wine in the Old Library, then processing with senior members into the dining hall and a seat at high table.  I’ve done this lots of times, but every time is so special.  The definition of Old School!  To my left was David Skinner, a California native who leads the choir and who I know fairly well; to my right was Massimo Beber, known here as Max, an Italian economist from Milan.  We three had a lively discussion through dinner, and also got to know a recent graduate, a young Dutch guy who sat across from us, and his girlfriend, from the Russian Far East.  As is customary, after the meal (and two-word grace, in Latin, Benedictus benedicat), we processed to a paneled room for port, fruit, and cheese, and more conversation.  Nick, who had graduated in geography in the mid-1970s and is now the college bursar (CFO), had some wonderful stories about his multinational career with Unilever, including colorful tales from Zimbabwe and Mexico.

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Chapel, Sidney Sussex College

After a “heart attack” English breakfast Monday morning, I walked across town to the business school.  No teaching that day, so I sat in the common room and caught up on stuff (last week was so busy).  At 12:30, I ate lunch with Jaideep Prabhu, a marketing professor; we had not met, and it was good to make contact with more faculty.  Mid-afternoon I ambled back to college, and took a nice nap. Ahhhhh.  Worked a bit more, then headed to the Pickerel, one of the older pubs in town, for a pint, then met friend Jochen Menges and his colleague Raphael Silberzahn for dinner.  A good meal, lots of conversation.

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My “office” at Judge Business School

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King’s College in late-afternoon sun

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Window-shopping, Cambridge University Press Bookshop, and a nearby fence (below)

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Up Tuesday morning, left college, and wheeled my suitcase across Cambridge, back to the business school, pausing, as I do most visits, for prayers at St. Botolph’s, a parish church since the 14th Century.  Worked for a few hours in the common room, and from 11 to 12:20 delivered a lecture on leadership to 30 masters students.  Offered them the opportunity to come yak with me that afternoon back in the common room, and at 1:30 Levi from Antwerp arrived.  We had a great chat about career – he’s finishing a first degree in law and has applied to LLM programs at Harvard, Columbia, and Penn.  Whew!

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Late autumn at Sidney Sussex College

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Scenes from St. Botolph’s: floor grave and baptismal fount

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Rush-hour, Trumpington Street

I changed clothes.  One more stop before heading to the train station.  Time for a pint at the venerable Eagle, perhaps Cambridge’s most storied pub; all manner of famous alumni tippled there, and it was a favored watering hole for RAF, RCAF, USAAC, and other Allied flyers during World War II.  Refreshed, I hopped on the bus for the train station, bought dinner fixings for the train, and hopped on for Ipswich, Manningtree, and Harwich.  As I had done three times previously, I crossed the North Sea to fly home from Amsterdam, avoiding the UK’s confiscatory ($260) departure tax.

Walked onto the Stena Hollandica ferry, more like a cruise ship, found my inside cabin, and promptly fell asleep.  Up at 6:30, big breakfast, then down the modern equivalent of a gangplank, onto the bus and train to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport.  Last order of business in Europe was coffee with good friend Jan Meurer, like me retired from the airline business, but still keeping busy.  We had a great yak for an hour, then I jumped on the Silver Bird for Philadelphia.  By total coincidence, daughter Robin was also changing planes there, returning from business in Germany — talk about two mobile people!  She was one row ahead of me on the flight to Washington.  Home by nine, dogs happy to see us both.

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Airport commerce and airport art: Amsterdam has long been almost a shopping mall with departure gates and runways attached; and Philadelphia continues to delight with rotating art exhibits, in this case creative crocheting!

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Fellow traveler Robin

Postscript: in December 2016 at the big Lutheran church in Ulm, Germany, I bought the Playmobil (toy brand) version of Martin Luther; he’s been on our kitchen table ever since, a reminder of the importance of faith:

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Montreal, Still Delightful 50 Years Later

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Splendid new condos line the formerly industrial Lachine Canal

On Sunday, October 22, by sheer luck I snagged a standby seat on an 80-minute Air Canada nonstop (several hours faster than a connection through New York) from Washington to Montreal – the flight was 45 minutes late, and they rebooked passengers that had tight connections, thus freeing up a chair for me.  As we descended toward Montreal, I looked down on a fascinating rural landscape of varied texture and color, and was reminded of a wonderful thought from Captain Mark Vonhoenacker’s 2015 book Skyfaring: A Journey with a Pilot:

Looking down in godlike remove from 30,000 feet on the ice sheet of Greenland or the jungles of New Guinea has since lost some of its ability to startle and become as routine as that Earthrise photograph. We now doze through the marvelous . . . flying on a commercial airliner — even while painfully folded into a seat in coach — can lift the soul and inspire an awareness of the wonderfully improbable, of the state of “in-betweenness” in which air travelers routinely hover.

The joy of flight will, for me, never lose its ability to startle, nor become routine:

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Look at all the texture: maple trees in full color, harvested and green fields, and the distinctive “long lot” method of land division that the French brought to the New World, originally to give farmers easier access to Quebec’s rivers.

Montreal Airport was empty, and in no time I was through immigration and customs and onto the local transit authority (STM) express bus, route 747, into downtown.  We detoured off the freeway and onto clogged local routes – traffic is often really, really bad in Montreal.  But I was in my customary digs, a suite on the top floor of McGill University student housing, by 2:45, and out the door – almost by formula – for lunch at a nearby Korean-family-run place, Kantapia.  I was seriously hungry and slurped a spicy noodle soup in no time, then walked across Rue Sherbrooke and onto a bike from Bixi, the city’s bikeshare network (the rental transaction is done from a smartphone app).   Many times that afternoon and over the next two days I said aloud “Montreal 50,” shorthand for the fact that my first visit there was a half-century earlier when (as I have written many times in these pages) two 15-year-old pals and I visited the big world’s fair, expo67.  I said “So lucky” almost as often as I said “Montreal 50.”

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Kimchee at Kantapia

I pedaled west on the lane-separated bikeway on busy De Maisonneuve Blvd., a familiar route, through downtown and into the old and affluent neighborhood of Westmount, then beyond to Westminster.  Enroute, a Tesla passed me; a nice way to drive, given that virtually every kilowatt of electricity produced in Quebec is made from falling water.  It was unseasonably warm, and sunny, and the maples and oaks were in full color.  Took a short nap and at six hopped on Bixi and rode a mile to the Latin Quarter for some microbrews and a light “Oktoberfest” dinner of venison sausage on red cabbage, pretzel on the side.

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The “Superhospital”: McGill University Health Centre, west of downtown

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The local economy is clearly strong, judging by new construction as well as sympathetic redevelopment of stately old houses like this one on Sherbrooke.

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Dawn from my hotel room

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McGill University continues to have budget woes, but has significantly improved public spaces on campus, including a lot of great sculpture; note the wolf behind the red swimmer

Monday morning, again by formula, breakfast at the Tim Horton’s across from my destination, McGill University.  Ambled around the campus, then up the hill to give an annual lecture at the law school’s Institute of Air and Space Law.  Some fairly heated discussion during question time, which was a lot of fun!  Walking downhill on Rue Peel I caught a familiar face out of the corner of my eye, Prof. Mary Dellar, my longtime host at McGill’s B-school.  Like a small town!  We yakked a bit (unlike many autumns, I was not teaching in any of her classes), and I peeled off to meet a newer B-school host, Bob Mackalski, for lunch.

Bob is one of the most interesting people I’ve met in recent years.  An entrepreneur turned academic (not a common sequence!), he’s got a very fertile mind.  After catching up on job and family, we turned to politics.  We lamented the lack of vision among politicians, even the better ones north of the border.  “Canada should be the land fairness AND prosperity, a place that fosters social mobility . . . to me that means the population needs access to health care, access to educational opportunities – schooling and libraries – and a place that feels safe.  But the vision needs to be coupled with a matching of capital and talent, which to me means sensible taxation to reward risk-taking and entrepreneurship.”  Whew, works for me.  He riffed a little on access to education as a vehicle for social mobility: “That means more competition among bright people – smart people of all social classes, not just the well-to-do.”  I wish I lived next door to him.

I worked a bit, then walked back uphill to the law school for an informal seminar on careers in airlines and aviation; students were from the U.S. (an Air Force major), India, Finland, France, Taiwan, and Germany.  Global.  The Institute’s new director, Brian Havel, arrived midway, and we had a brief yak afterwards.  Would have chatted more, but was due to meet Edie Austin of the Montreal Gazette at five.  Edie’s an op-ed editor for the paper, and kindly published my essay on 50 years of visits to the city.  We had a nice yak in Dominion Square, and at 5:45 I hopped on the Metro at Peel Station, riding just one stop.  A long day.

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Old and new in the 1929 Dominion Square Building

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“Circles” (1966), by Jean-Paul Mousseau, one of many wonderful pieces of art in Metro stations; I liked the piece in 1967, and a half-century and dozens of visits later it still makes me smile.

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Here’s my mandatory reminder: every single person in this photo has access to health care as a basic human right.

Changed into jeans, hopped on Bixi, back to the Quartier Latin and a favorite bar and restaurant, Saint-Houblon.  I said “Bonsoir” to one of the bartenders, Michel, who I have gotten to know from many visits. “It’s always a pleasure to have you back,” he said.  The place specializes in Quebec microbrews, and I chose well: an IPA from Mille-Îles brewery in Terrebonne, 12 miles north. “To 50 years in Montreal,” I said as I hoisted the pint.  Surrounded by people one-half and perhaps one-third my age made me smile, and remember the short film I saw at expo67 a half-century earlier: “We Are Young.”  It’s sort of a mantra.  And Montreal makes me feel young.  Saint-Houblon serves burgers and other pub fare, but they also offer some refined dishes, and I tucked into a superb Arroz Caldo, a spicy dish of clams, rice, beans, corn, and potatoes, garnished with seaweed.  It was so good.

I wasn’t speaking until noon Tuesday, so was up at first light and out the door on Bixi, down the hill to the St. Lawrence River, then upstream on a riverside bikeway.  Rain was predicted at 10, but it started a mile into the ride, and continued, lightly, until I got back.  Another breakfast at Tim Horton’s, then down Sherbrooke with suitcase to the B-school.  Worked a couple of hours and from noon to one delivered a talk to the MBA Marketing Association, familiar from my 19 visits to the university.  Ate three slices of pizza and headed to the Metro, bound for the airport.

A little giggle on Metcalfe Street caused an older fellow just in front of me to turn around, which launched a wonderful T-t-S.  Chris Green, American, has been a professor of economics at McGill for 49 years, and we had a great yak.  His Ph.D. (and his wife) were from Wisconsin.  I promised to look him up next visit.  At the Lionel-Groulx Station he headed for another train and I jumped on the 747 bus to the airport, a flight to Philadelphia, and a short ride home to Washington.

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St. Louis and Minneapolis/St. Paul

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Gothic Revival architecture on the campus of Washington University in St. Louis

Travels in the fourth quarter – likely to be as busy as the third – started Sunday, October 8, with a flight west to St. Louis.  I had not been there for 14 years.  Walking through the terminal, the Midwest was immediately evident: people smiling, making eye contact with strangers, and generally looking happier than folk in the Northeast.  Hopped on the MetroLink light rail, and rode into the city.  Got off at the Delmar Loop station, on the edge of a poor neighborhood, and although many of the people around the station looked like they had hard lives, they still nodded or smiled or said “how ya doin’.”   I walked west on Delmar into University City, U City for short, then south on Skinker to Washington University, on the north end of the huge Forest Park (second-largest urban park after New York’s Central Park).  Walked across the north end of the leafy campus and checked in at the school’s on-premises hotel.  Grabbed a quick nap, and walked the campus a bit more.

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Minoru Yamasaki’s striking design (1956) for terminal one at St. Louis Lambert International Airport; the four spherical triangles have long been a fave

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Scenes from the 1.5-mile walk from train to hotel: a redeveloped stretch of Delmar Blvd., and a glimpse of pleasant residential streets in U City.

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The General, namesake of WashU, and the soaring atrium of the Olin Business School.

At 6:30, I met Ayshwarya from India, Cathy from China, and Majed from Saudi Arabia, three students in the class I would teach the next morning, and we zipped a mile north to an awesome Barbeque joint, Salt & Smoke.  It was a fun dinner, mostly explaining the airline business, but also getting to know them a bit, all Master’s candidates at WashU, as everyone calls it.

Up early Monday morning, onto a defective fitness bike in the hotel gym, only able to crank out five miles.  Ate a free breakfast in the hotel and ambled next door to the airy atrium of the Olin Business School.  Worked for an hour, then met my host Prof. Chakravathi Narasimhan.  I had met Chak five months earlier at a conference, whence he suggested a visit.  Chak was one of those fellows that you feel like you’ve known for years even though it’s only been 10 minutes.  Just a swell guy.  He had been at WashU 28 years, moving to St. Louis after earning his Ph.D. at Northwestern.  Delivered a talk on airline sales and distribution to a largely Asian audience.  Chak invited me to lunch and more good conversation, then delivered me to a taxi – on to stop 2, overnight with friend-since-1963 Steve Schlachter, out in the western suburb of Maryland Heights.

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Lake Creve Coeur, a backwater of the Missouri River

Steve had just returned from a reunion of 1000 former employees and leaders of PeopleExpress, one of the early successes of U.S. airline deregulation.  Though the company failed, they have been widely heralded for their commitment to employee participation (and ownership, through stock), cross-utilization of people, and enlightened management.  We spent the first 90 minutes yakking about the reunion, and the airline industry.  Having lived through the death of an airline brand (Republic, my first corporate job, 1984-86), I understood the emotion generated.  It sounded like a remarkable event, held at Newark Airport, which was PE’s home base.

At three, we went for a drive, through a big park adjacent to their subdivision, then down the hill to Creve Coeur Lake.  Back home, I borrowed Steve’s bike and zipped around the lake a few times.  Tonic!  At five, we picked up Steve’s wife Cindy, who works at a garden and landscape center, then spent a pleasant 90 minutes on their back deck, with drinks and chatter.  Headed out for dinner, made a wrong turn, but still ended up in a good place: Paul Manno’s, an Italian restaurant in a strip mall.  St. Louis is full of Italians and great Italian eateries, and this one did not disappoint.  The pasta was way good, accompanied by fine conversation.

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Riding around the lake, I was sure I was going to run into Huck Finn and Jim!

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Steve and Cindy were dogsitting Sadie, a neighbor’s pet; on arrival, Steve explained that a previous owner abused her, thus she might not take to me.  By that evening I had made a friend.

Up early the next morning, did a bit of work, and at 8:45 Steve drove me back to the airport.  Flew via Chicago to the next gig, at the Carlson School of Management at my alma mater, the University of Minnesota. We descended through cloud and below was my homeland: lakes, trees, and farmland.  It was a comforting view.   Landed Minneapolis/St. Paul at 1:30.  Picked up a rental car and motored north. Stop 1 was a chocolate malt at the Dairy Queen on 42nd and Minnehaha, which included a nice chat with the owner – I told him I had not been in that DQ since September 1974, when I stopped to revive, on about mile 93 of a 100-mile bike ride.  He said his dad had bought the store the year before my last visit.  A nice bit of continuity.

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At 3:00, I walked into the MPLS. Frame Store a few blocks north and met MJ the owner, then met Pam Harris, the artist who produced the lovely pastel “City Garden” that I bought at the Minnesota State Fair seven weeks earlier.  We three had a nice chat about their work (MJ is an artist and a framer), and we talked a lot about other local artists that I had met through more than three decades of visiting the art show at the fair.  Loaded the art in the car (fretting about whether it would fit in the airplane coat closets two days hence), and drove west on the lovely parkways that are one of the many virtues of the City of Minneapolis, across to the home of friends-since-1970 Deb and Phil Ford.

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We yakked for a bit.  It was a beautiful fall day, and leaves were close to peak color, so I borrowed Phil’s slick new city bike and rolled east to Lake Harriet, joining a bike path that I’ve known for almost 60 years.  Cycled north, then across to Lake Calhoun, and around it, back to Harriet, and home.  I kept thinking back to all the times I rode around those lakes, and specific moments popped into my head, like election night in 1972; it was rainy and gloomy, and Richard Nixon had by early evening been announced as the victor.  I remember feeling unhinged, not just by the voting result, but by the uncertainty that would follow college graduation in eight months.  Of course it all worked out!

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We headed to early dinner at a new place, Mill Valley Café, not far from their house.  When I return to the Twin Cities, I’m always delighted with all the new restaurants, and this one did not disappoint.  Tucked into spicy edamame as a starter and grilled rainbow trout.  Yum.  Headed home and yakked for a long time, as only long friends can do.  Before retiring, I asked Debbie to play a song on the piano; she’s accomplished, and it was lovely to hear her.  We don’t make music ourselves much anymore, which made it even sweeter.

Was up Wednesday morning at “the usual time,” but that was 5:15, not 6:15, in the Central Time Zone.  Out the door, down 50th Street, then into the city on Park Avenue, a route I recall from my childhood (the main freeway in that part of town, I-35W, was torn up, so local routes made sense).  Parked across from the Carlson School of Management at “the U,” walked around the West Bank Campus a bit, then found a big coffee and cinnamon roll at a Starbucks in Hanson Hall.  Before delivering my first lecture, I walked over to the Geography Department (where I earned my Ph.D.) and tracked down Rod Squires, the only faculty member still there from my time in the late 1970s.  He’s north of 70 and going strong.  We lamented the decline of “real geography” in the hands of ideologues and theoreticians, a 40-year slide that was a major factor in my leaving the field.  Sad to see that not much has changed.

At 9:45, delivered my airline pricing lecture to Mark Bergen’s morning MBA class.  At 11:45, Mark and I linked up with longtime Carlson hosts Debbie and George John, a husband-and-wife faculty team (both marketing experts), and we motored across the Mississippi to lunch in the faculty club.  Back to the West Bank for a lecure to Debbie’s undergrads, then an interview with a Ph.D. student, then a third lecture to Mark’s evening pricing class.  Whew.

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Familiar territory: the West Bank Campus of the U of M; I wrote my dissertation in the library at left.

I was worn out, but hopped in the rental car and zoomed east to downtown St. Paul and a delightful dinner with Martha Sheppard, widow of my dear friend and Wharton classmate Jack (1944-1993); her youngest daughter Emily; Em’s fiancée Michael; and Pat, widow of Jack’s sister Beth.  Martha had moved to a cool condo in a part of the center called Lowertown, and it was way cool.  We tucked into a beautiful dinner, spicy Italian Wedding Soup, salad, homemade apple cake, and lively conversation.  Martha poured some fancy Bordeaux (1983 vintage) for Pat and me.  It was a poignant moment, hoisting that glass, for it was the among the last of Jack’s huge wine collection.  We still miss him, and always will.

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The Minnesota State Capitol, St. Paul

Slept hard, up at first light, and out the door for seven miles on Phil’s bike, through neighborhoods where I lived as a child; past the site of Wooddale Elementary School (1926), long gone; past the Cape Cod on Arden where we lived from 1959 to 1964; then back.  I was flying home at 12:30, so there was still time to see one more friend, and at eight I hugged Tom Terry (another pal since junior high school) at Edina Grill.  We tucked into a big breakfast, a good update (I hadn’t seen him since the 40th high school reunion in 2009), and some reliving of our youth – including a hilarious story of he and a buddy sneaking out of the house as teenagers.  “Then we heard sirens” said it all!

Back at the Fords, I hugged them both, put my suitcase in the car, and drove to the airport.  The journey home, via Chicago, would have been routine, except I had the huge painting.  It just fit in the coat closet at the front of the MD-80 to Chicago, whew.  Waiting to board the 737 to DCA, a gate agent said it would not fit on board, so he tagged it for gate check, like a stroller, to retrieve on the jetbridge on arrival.  I was a little stressed, but trusted my American Airlines brothers and sisters on the ramp, and in Washington it came up unscathed.  Hooray!  Hopped the Metro home, a nice swing through the Heartland.

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September in Europe, Part 2

I arrived at Stockholm’s central station in the capital on time, and walked a mile to the Stockholm School of Economics for my 12th visit.  I arranged to meet my host Per Andersson at 11:45, so had plenty of time.  A friendly Ph.D. student let me into the offices, and in no time I was at work.  The place was familiar, so I knew the location of the (free) coffee machine and other essentials.  Per arrived early, and we peeled off for lunch at a buffet place a block away (also familiar).  As we left the building, I asked about the scaffolds on the façade, and among other things learned that the structure had historic and protected status, because the Nobel prizewinning economist Gunnar Myrdal had worked in the very corridor where Per officed.

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Doors to Stockholm’s Adolf Fredrik Church (1774), well familiar to me, were locked, so the florists left the funeral bouquets on the step

We zipped back from lunch, then into the main SSE building for a graduate-level lecture on airlines and Big Data.  Yakked with a couple of students after class, walked back to the offices, changed into jeans, and said goodbye.  Then headed (in rain, as usual) a mile south to the stop for the airport bus.  Flew on Swiss to Zurich, flight slightly late (very un-Swiss), and dashed across the airport for a connecting flight to Geneva; I was bound for a quick visit with a former student, Fabio Scappaticci, and his family.  Made the flight, and to my great delight, my luggage did, too.  Met Fabio in the bag claim, hugs.  The original plan was to stay at his house, but his parents, from Montreal, were visiting on short notice, so he dropped me at a simple motel five minutes from his place.  It was 12:45 AM, and I was totally drained.  Zzzzz.

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For the Transport Geeks: my first ride in a Made-in-Canada Bombardier CSeries

Woke up at eight, unheard of, showered, and met Fabio at nine.  Headed to the bakery in his village of Prevéssin-Moëns for breakfast breads, then home to meet parents Daniella and Angelo, wife Lisa, and sons Luca (5) and Leo (2.5).  We hit it off immediately, falling into friendly banter about families, work, kids, life.  Then we all piled into two cars and headed into the next town, Ferney-Voltaire, where the latter author and philosopher lived from 1759 until his death in 1778.  The entire center of town was closed to traffic and open to a vast weekly food market.  Visiting a place like that is clear evidence of how deeply the French care about food.  Produce, meat, cheese, and more, endless varieties, conventional and increasingly organic.  We bought fruits and vegetables, cheese, more bread, and lunch (to eat at home) from a tiny stall selling Vietnamese take-away.  Ambled to the Carrefour supermarket for sausages to barbecue for dinner, then home.  It was a glorious day, sunny and warm – so welcome after a week of gloom – and we ate lunch in the backyard, with a fine view of the low Jura Mountains to the north.  It was naptime for Luca and Leo, and I joined them for an hour.

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Ordinary Saturday life in France: at the bakery and the open-air market

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Produce, perfect (left) and not-so-much — but the French have begun to embrace the imperfect edible rather than waste it.

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City Hall (Mairie), in Ferney-Voltaire

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Leo and Luca with a bowling-ball-like watermelon

Refreshed, I fell back into conversation with Angelo and Daniella, who emigrated with their parents from south of Rome to Montreal in the 1960s.  His was a classic Canadian success story.  In the 1970s he hired on with Hydro-Quebec, the provincial power utility, that was building enormous waterpower projects at James Bay in northern Quebec.  Three months on, one week off, 60-hour workweek guaranteed, and Angelo saved enough money to open a Dunkin Donuts franchise, then two, then three.  He sold the last one in 2006, and since has worked hourly jobs at Costco and elsewhere to stay busy.  They had two sons, both university graduates.  A nice story.

Angelo and I took a long walk around the village, a very pleasant, leafy place.  We tucked into a nice meal, again outside, just as the dusk colors were at their best.  Lisa and Fabio put the kids to bed, we ate some French-style apple pie, and after hugs and kisses Fabio drove me back to the motel.

That Saturday was the kind of travel experience that I have enjoyed for decades and have recommended often: to experience life, family life, in another part of the world is extraordinary for its simplicity.  To see a kitchen; to help with chores, to hug kids and carry them around a backyard on shoulders, to walk the neighborhood.  To quote Voltaire, it was “the best of all possible worlds.”

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The agreeable view from Fabio’s and Lisa’s backyard (L), and their street

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Sunset from the backyard; the end of a splendid day.

Was up at a normal time Sunday morning, two cups of motel-room instant coffee, and out the door, walking a kilometer to the city hall in Ferney-Voltaire.  On the way, I passed the city park, where the day before, on the north end, I noticed some phrases that appeared to be from Voltaire’s pen, printed on steel and inserted into the concrete. And there were some on the south side, too:

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Top: “The mouth obeys evil when the heart whispers”

A little more about Voltaire and the town: in 1755, he was “on the run,” having angered both Frederick the Great of Prussia and King Louis XV in his native France, so he settled in Geneva and bought an estate.  But then one of his new writings angered the locals, so he hopped across the border and bought an estate in Ferney.  He was not only a writer, but helped establish pottery and watchmaking industries in his new home, as well as theatre, which was banned in Geneva.  Quite a fellow.  As I have written here before, my fave Voltaire quotation is “the perfect is the enemy of the good.”

Hopped on the bus for a 12-minute ride to Geneva Airport.  Time for breakfast; I remembered from a visit in 2013 that there was a Migros supermarket in the airport train station, so made fast for a store I’ve known since my first visit to Switzerland in 1972.  As I’ve written many times, visiting a grocery is another one of those simple and rewarding overseas moments.  Bought yogurt, a banana, a yeasted raisin roll, and a mango smoothie, and enjoyed a picnic breakfast on platform 2.  The train to St. Gallen and the fifth university on the trip departed in an hour, so I hopped another for the short ride into downtown Geneva.  True to my zeal for cramming as much as possible into a day, I rolled my suitcase a few blocks to the lake, Lac Leman, then back.  Hopped on the 9:42 direct to St. Gallen.

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Swiss Federal Railways’ mobile-phone charging station: you pedal, you recharge

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Glimpses of Geneva on the 10-minute walk to the lake

I was looking forward to a four-hour ride across Switzerland, and it did not disappoint.  As we headed to Lausanne, to my left were vineyards marching up gentle slopes, and to the right glimpses of the lake and the backbone of the Alps, including Mont Blanc.  Eastward, and plenty of interesting scenes: farmers harvesting maize (corn), hundreds of grazing cattle, and lots of bicyclists out on a sunny day.

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It’s hard to get a good pic from a moving train; this is as good as it gets, in mobile photography and in Swiss scenery!

After checking into the hotel in St. Gallen, changing clothes, and eating a $17 Subway footlong (welcome to Switzerland!), I joined the cyclists, climbing 900 feet, whew, out of St. Gallen to the picturesque villages of Speicher and Trogen.  The original plan was to continue on to Altstätten, but when I got to a little fork in the road called Oberegg I could see my destination, only about 5 miles away but almost 2000 feet below.  Sure, the ride there would have been fun, but I just did not see an upward slog, so I snapped some pictures of the Rhine Valley, and turned around.  It didn’t take long to get back, down that long slope back into town.  It was a perfect ride, the whole rural Swiss experience (to me, best seen on a bicycle): the melody of tinkling bells around cows, sheep, and goats; traditional architecture; a mix of broadleaf and pine forest, rushing streams.  No yodeling, but you could imagine it!  Took a short nap, and at dusk headed a few blocks east to a new restaurant in town, run by young people, for a beer and a bratwurst.  Scenes from a good day:

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Up early Monday morning, out the door, up another, smaller hill (only 300 feet of rise) to the University of St. Gallen and my 17th appearance since 2000.   From 10:30 to noon delivered a talk on airline revenue management to undergrads, then grabbed a quick lunch in the Mensa (student cafeteria) with morning host Sven Reinecke.  Rode down the hill, and from 1:45 to 3:15 spoke to Prof. Winfried Ruigrok’s full-time MBA class.  A great group: diverse, engaged, enthused.  Just a pleasure.  Rode back to the hotel, changed clothes, and did some work.  As I did the year before, at 6:30, met Paul and Hananja Brice at a fondue restaurant for a fun meal and lots of great conversation – kids, UK and U.S. politics, Swiss prices, and more.  I first met Paul when he was chaplain of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, and we’ve stayed in touch.  He’s now pastor of the Anglican church in Zürich.

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Swiss Made: a bike rack and a service truck for waterless urinals; as I’ve noted, despite high labor costs, the Swiss still make lots of stuff, and they buy it — no need for tariffs when cultural values are so strong.  I’m sure Chicago-school economists scoff, but the model is to me admirable.

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The view from my classroom

Out the door Tuesday morning for a quick eight-mile bike ride (on mostly flat terrain), then suited up.  On the way up to the university, I stopped as I always do at the wildly Baroque abbey church of St. Gallen.  A good place for morning prayers, and for whispering a few words to the wonderful carved angel on the ceiling, who has been a friend and touchstone for almost 20 years.  Worked the morning in the library, and at 1:00 met Winfried and his assistant Georg Guttman, who has been my host for many years (he is also the bicycle lender; what a champ!).  Hewing to tradition, we met at Wienerberg, an old-school café adjacent to the campus.  It was a warm, sunny day, and we ate outdoors, catching up on changes since September 2016.

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The old town (Altstadt) in St. Gallen, and one of the many angels in the Baroque abbey church

Back to the library to work a few hours, then from 4:30 to 6:00 delivered a lecture to the school’s #1-in-the-world Masters in International Management and Strategy.  The kids were young (most right into the program after getting their first degrees), but motivated.  Stayed 20 minutes more outside the classroom answering questions, then walked to the bike.  It had rained briefly during the lecture, but, happily, it had stopped (my raincoat was back at the hotel).  Rode down the hill on wet streets, careful on the curves, and was home in no time.  Changed clothes, worked my email, and walked two blocks to the Coop supermarket in the train station for a salad, rolls, and a beer (after a big lunch I didn’t need much).  Was asleep by 9:15 . . .

Up at 5:15, out the door and onto the 6:00 train “down the hill” to Konstanz, on what Germans call Bodensee and we call Lake Constance.  Changed trains there, and at Singen, then Horb, then Tübingen, finally arriving in my destination, Reutlingen at 9:50.  It took nearly four hours to travel only about 140 miles, because there are no direct routes.  But the ride was pleasant.  Once the sun rose, fall colors were at their best, the landforms interesting (ridges and curious “bumps” that rose a few hundred feet out of a flat plain).  For awhile we were in the Black Forest, deep green, and it felt like Hansel and Gretel were at hand.

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The bridge to heaven?  No, a span on Highway 81 over the Neckar Valley, near Horb, Germany

At the station, I hopped on a city bus for a short ride up the hill to the ESB Business School of Reutlingen University and my fifth visit in two years (I normally walk, but I didn’t have luggage on previous visits).  Made fast for the Mensa, drank two strong coffees, and at 11:30 delivered a lecture to Oliver Götz’s undergraduate marketing class.  The talk went well.  At the start of Q&A, Oliver asked about what American Airlines did after 9/11 to rebuild.  I answered.  After class, a student approached to tell me that he thought it the tragedies were a conspiracy.  “You mean, engineered by the U.S. Government?” I asked.  “Yes,” he replied.  I wanted to slap him, but instead lit into him verbally.  I don’t think a student had ever made me as angry.

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Reutlingen University

Oliver and I headed to the Mensa for lunch and a good yak, then back to his office, and I peeled off, back on the bus to downtown.  My last night in Europe was another Airbnb, advertised as a “micro-apartment” in the old town, and it was.  Host Marcus met me right on time, handed me the key, and peeled off.  Took a quick nap, worked for a few hours, then went out for a walk on a lovely warm afternoon.  At six I ambled into a fave place, Barfüsser, a microbrewery and restaurant for a couple of beers and a totally enormous plate of roast pork, dumpling, and kraut salad.  Yum.

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In the Airbnb micro-apartment: I thought it was just a cabinet for clothes, then opened the door!

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Scenes from my neighborhood in Reutlingen

Back to the micro, a bit of work, a few pages of a gripping new novel, and lights out.  Up early again, 5:30, out the door, onto a train for Stuttgart, a connecting fast one to Frankfurt Airport, and a flight to Philadelphia then home to Washington.

It would be hard to cram more into 92 days of a quarter!

 

 

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September in Europe, Part 1

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Aachen, Germany, first stop

The “fall semester” started on Wednesday, September 15, Metro to National Airport, short hop up to Philadelphia, and a big Silver Bird across the ocean to Frankfurt.  Arrived after breakfast, waited a couple of hours, and at 10:45 hopped on the fast ICE train north.  As I always do on arrival in a country I greatly admire, I cued their national anthem, “Deutschlandleid,” then closed my mind and conjured images of the place in spring 1945: flattened, broke, hungry.  And within a decade, cities were rebuilt, there was money in the bank, and food and drink were in ample supply.  That is about will, a trait that exists in abundance in Germany.  It is that will that built the train that propelled me to Cologne at 180 mph.  The train turned west toward the border with Belgium and The Netherlands, and I hopped off in Aachen, a city best known as the seat of King Charlemagne in the 9th Century.

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Aachen Cathedral (above and below)

 

 

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Weather was poor: periodic showers and howling wind, but I stowed my suitcase and backpack contents in a locker in the train station, zipped up my Gore-Tex raincoat, and headed out, a short walk through a townscape immediately appealing, with a nice mix of contemporary and old buildings, a pleasant scale, and lots of sculpture on the street.  First stop was the spectacular cathedral, begun in the 8th Century and modified through the years.  Wandered the old town a bit, zipped into a supermarket for lunch fixings, and enjoyed the repast until another shower arrived.  Next stop was the town hall, Rathaus, begun 1330 and finished two decades later.  The public rooms were spectacular, and on the top floor a cavernous coronation hall, site of many royal banquets through the years.  It was still howling and pouring outside, so I spent a good while in the various rooms, many done in Baroque style.  Stop three was Elisenbrunnen, one of the original thermal springs.  Despite the signs that read in German “Do not drink the water,” everyone who stopped took a handful, so I did too, slightly hot and highly mineralized.

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Bakery window (gingerbread is a local specialty) and Charlemagne’s seal in the pavement

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Aachen Town Hall (Rathaus), above and below, the red and white rooms, and the banquet hall

 

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Lots of public art, mostly sculpture, in town

 

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Not everything was old in Aachen!

Ambled back to the train station and still had more than an hour, so found a place to sit and read a bit.  Hopped on the fast train back to Cologne and then a completely packed local train north to Düsseldorf, my destination.  It was like the Tokyo Metro, and I was happy to get off, then onto a subway to my hotel.  Checked in and took a tonic shower.  I knew the neighborhood, just southeast of downtown, from a visit in late 2016, so made fast for Uerige am Markt, a cozy restaurant.  The local brew, Altbier, comes in small glasses, and I enjoyed a few along with an enormous plate of pork, roasted potatoes, and green beans.  Vast.  Slept hard.

Up at 6:45 Friday morning, to the hotel gym, then breakfast.  Spent the morning doing some consulting work.  At 11:45 I walked a block to a station of the local bikeshare system, Nextbike.  Their iPhone app was balky, but I got it figured out, unlocked bike 04445, and pedaled up Kölnerstrasse, then north toward Altstadt, the old town.  Parked the bike, locked it, done.

While waiting for local friends to arrive, I sat down on a bench on Ratinger Strasse.  An octogenarian woman with a large smile wheeled her walker into the Füchschen brewery for lunch. She was a perfect vignette of social democracy: taking care of the elderly so that they might live in dignity with enough.  A few minutes later, a brief  T-t-S with dog owners.  The dog paused in front of me, so of course I nuzzled her face, then told the owners about missing our terriers when I travel.  So they turned back around to let me cuddle a bit more.

At 12:30 I met Tobias Hundhausen (who I first met in Dallas in the late 1990s), his wife Sarah (who I had not met prior), and their seven-week-old son Tillmann.  Linda had knitted a blanket for young Till, and parents were happy to have it.  We had a delightful lunch at Füchschen, one of the many small brewers that make Altbier. Tucked into a splendid lunch and great conversation about Toby’s new job, Sarah’s travails during pregnancy, and the other stuff that close friends discuss.  Lots of fun.  Rode the Nextbike home, took a nap, suited up, and set off for WHU, the private German business school I’ve visited most years since 2000.

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Till Hundhausen, seven weeks

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Central Düsseldorf, leafy and pleasant

I spotted a shortcut on the map, and in no time was walking down Kiefernstrasse, which had a very Bohemian feel: graffiti all over, old wagons like the ones Roma people use, lefty-looking people on the street.  When I arrived at WHU a few minutes later, I Googled the street name, then to Wikipedia: “Kiefernstraße is a street in the Flingern-Süd district of Düsseldorf that became notorious in the 1980s for squatting. In the mid-1980s there were connections to the Baader–Meinhof [Terrorist] Gang.”  Whoa!

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On Kiefernstrasse: bright facades and political graffiti

From 5:15 to 6:15 I delivered a career-advice talk to 30 brand-new full-time MBA students, a very international group.  Only six were from Germany; the others were from China, India, Taiwan, Colombia, Venezuela, Canada, USA, South Africa, Kazakhstan, Finland (he was impressed I knew Sisu, a distinctive Finnish word that roughly means perseverance, something Finns have needed during the many years that neighbors ran roughshod over their land).  I stayed around for 30 minutes or so, chatting one-on-one with students.  A young Chinese entrepreneur invited me to go into business with him!  I politely declined.

Walked back to the hotel, naturally via Kiefernstrasse, smiling at the young people who stared at the old man in suit and tie.  Changed clothes, hopped on the U-Bahn, and in no time was on a stool at Schumacher, another Altbier producer.  Had a nice T-t-S with a German bicycle enthusiast (we two-wheel geeks each had pictures of our bikes on our phones!).  Tucked into a plate of roast blutwurst, fried onions, sauerkraut, and mashed potatoes, German soul food for sure.  The biker, whose name I did not catch, was by that time chatting with three folks at the other end of the table.  Germany could well be a land of T-t-S, especially in drinking places.  Slept hard, again.

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German elections were a week ahead, and posters were everywhere.  Mrs. Merkel’s simple message: “Successful for Germany.”

On the gym bike before seven, rode a bit further, then after breakfast went back out on a bikeshare cycle for 15 miles through town.  High point was the pleasant and very affluent Oberkassel neighborhood across the Rhine River from downtown.  Returned home via the state (North Rhine-Westphalia) parliament buildings, then a new district upstream on former port land.  Took a short nap, walked to a nearby supermarket for sandwiches, then suited up for a late-Saturday-afternoon talk on leadership at WHU.  Students were from the weekend MBA program, so nearly all of them were German.  Great group, good questions, nice round of applause.  Despite a whole day of blue skies, it was raining steadily, which made for a fast but soggy walk back to the hotel.

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Oberkassel

 

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The redeveloping inner harbor (connected to the Rhine)

Changed clothes and hopped on the U-Bahn.  I noticed a transit ad above the windows, noting the emergency phone numbers for Düsseldorf.  In another vignette of social democracy, I counted nine separate lines – of course the equivalent of 911 in the U.S., as well as for abused spouses, abused children, missing persons, victims of anti-gay violence, and more.  Got off at the edge of the old town, and walked a block west to beer at zum Schlüssel, another of the small brewery-restaurant combinations.  Saturday night and the place was hopping, but I found a standing-room-only counter strategically 10 feet from the oak kegs.  German pro soccer (Bundesliga) was on the big-screen TVs above the bar, and I got to see a nearby team Mönchengladbach tie the score with Leipzig.  Had a nice T-t-S with a German fellow, which headed quickly toward the new President of the U.S.  “We are afraid,” he said.  “So am I.” The yak turned toward the Bad Old Days of the Cold War, and he told me he grew up in Lower Saxony only six miles from the heavily armed border with East Germany.  More, he said, the Berlin Wall came down on his birthday, November 11.  “Ein schönes geschenk,” (a nice gift) I said, and he smiled.  One of the servers, Guido, greeted the elderly couple next to me like old friends.  As noted above, German drinking places are social places.

My server, Wolfgang, was efficient (he even had an old-fashioned coin dispenser around his waist), and brought fresh beer (small glasses, drained quickly).  I asked him in German if I could eat standing up, he replied yes, so I ordered another German favorite, cold herring in cream sauce, with onions and pickles (in that case from the famous picklemakers of the Spreewald south of Berlin), plus a huge mound of fried potatoes.  So good.  Headed back to the hotel and clocked out.

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Up at 6:30, back to the gym, then packed up, and headed to breakfast.  That hotel, the NH City (a Dutch chain) serves an awesome morning meal, and because I was traveling that day, I tucked into a lot of food.  Another nice, if brief, T-t-S with two guys my age, half in German and half in English.  They were from near Hamburg, and were eight longtime friends who gathered regularly to play cards.  “Ah,” I replied, “you’re on a boys’ trip.”  And they laughed, happy to learn an English idiom.

Checked out, hopped the U-Bahn to the main station, then a local train to Cologne.  I had a 20-minute connection, so ambled out the south entrance to gaze up at the enormous Dom, the cathedral begun in 1248 and not truly finished until 1880.  First seen more than four decades earlier, it always has the power to put humans in perspective.  We are small.  Took a short ride to Cologne/Bonn Airport, and flew to Stockholm, headed for five days of teaching in Sweden.   We descended through cloud, and below was the pleasant rural Swedish landscape: mixed hardwood and evergreen forest, pastures, lakes, and red barns with red tile roofs.

Changed planes and flew 300 miles north to Umeå, a place familiar from 22 previous visits to the university there. Landed about seven, hopped on a bus into town, and checked into a comfortable hotel, the Uman, where we’ve stayed for years.  The receptionist had the key to the bike that the Umeå School of Business and Economics makes available to me most years.  It was time for a quick sauna.  It was seriously hot, north of 200° F., so it only took about 25 minutes to work up a big sweat.   Showered, dressed, and grabbed a light dinner in the hotel – they serve a free evening meal, one of the things we’ve enjoyed through the years.

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Descending toward Umeå

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In the sauna

Was up at first light Monday morning, onto the bike, 15 miles, including a nice ride around Bölesholmarna, a small island in the Umeå River, and (as it says on my blog homepage) one of  my favorite places on earth.  Even on a gloomy day it was lovely, birch and pine trees, autumn color.  I looked for our terrier Henry’s cousin, Keso, who I had seen on previous rides on the island, but he wasn’t out with his keepers (Little aside: in previous dispatches from Umeå I spelled his name Queso, like the Mexican word for cheese; but the K spelling is right: Keso is a Swedish cottage cheese brand, which makes sense since both the food and West Highland terriers are white!).

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Umeå from across the river in Teg

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On Bölesholmarna

Showered, suited up, and pedaled up the hill to the university.  At 9:30, met Prof. Chris Nicol, and delivered a talk on airline alliances.  Ate a quick lunch with his teaching assistant, Angelos Kostis, a really good guy with similar views on a range of subjects.  From one to three delivered a talk to a big group, about 100, all grad students, a case study on airline strategy, first time to present it.  Whew.  Was plumb wore out.  Rode down the hill, coasting in light rain, then took a needed nap.

At six I pedaled four miles downriver for dinner with Nils and Carolina Paulsson, their kids Johan (13), Petter (11), and Olle (8), and dogs Egil and Elton (German pointer and Engish spaniel).  They are like family, so I was immediately at home.  We got caught up on things since the previous September: the weekend house near the coast that Nils and Carolina built themselves (they also built the home where we sat); the kids musical interests; and lots more.  Tucked into a delicious dinner of Icelandic haddock, along with potatoes and vegetables from their garden.  After dinner, Johan and Petter played violin for me, and we enjoyed an awesome homemade apple cake.  Hugged everyone and walked outside into steady rain.  The ride back to town was wet and dark, and even cycling slowly I left the unpaved trail a couple of times.  Oops.  Happily, the rain tapered off, then stopped as I got close to the hotel, so I opted to ride over to Lotta’s, a bar and microbrewery, for a homemade beer.  That I recognized the bartender from previous visits was pretty good indication that I feel like a local in Umeå!

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Top: fall scenes along the river, enroute to the Paulssons; above, Johann and Petter performing, and Elton helping with the pre-wash dishwasher cycle.

Up early and out on the bike again, then up the hill to the (nearly) annual meeting of the school’s International Advisory Board.   When I walked into the meeting room, called Samvetet, I thought of the many times I had been there, but I especially thought of when I entered the room about 2 PM on Friday, September 14, 2001, just three days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  On these pages I wrote:

The International Advisory Board was just finishing their coffee break, and when they reconvened I was introduced.  The group applauded my persistence given the circumstances.  The new B-school dean, Anders Söderholm, asked me to say a few words of introduction, and I simply repeated my view that not to come would be to yield to the terrorists.  More applause.  I sat down.

I was the first board member to arrive, and had a nice chat with the (relatively) new dean, Sofia Lundberg.  Small talk focused on the weather: the whole summer had been cold and wet; “I didn’t even put away my winter clothes,” she complained.   Two new board members arrived, Emma, a Ph.D. from the school, now working as an economist for Amazon in Seattle; and Stewart, an English sociologist turned business prof, now in Sydney.  It was a good day, with updates on various aspects of the school’s progress.  Looking back over the nearly 20 years of board service, they’ve made a lot of advances.  Rode the bike down the hill.  At 6:45, we ambled to dinner at a Köksbaren, a “new Scandinavian cuisine” place a few blocks from the hotel.  First course was chunky, country-style bacon, oysters, and homemade potato chips, and the main course was one of my Swedish faves, Arctic char.

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Breakfast at the Uman: herring (every day!) and waffles

The weather was consistently bad, but I was determined to get some exercise, so I went out Wednesday morning in a raincoat for nine miles on the bike.  At nine, joined a joint “strategy day” with two school advisory boards and the larger board of directors.  I knew a lot of the people, which was proof of my many visits.  Candidly, was irregular in quality, and I was glad to peel off at two for a talk to students.  It was time again for another “Drink and Learn” at the E-Pub, which is run by the school’s student association, HHUS.  Drat, the back tire on the bike was flat, so I ambled a few blocks to the bus for a seven-minute ride up the hill.  Delivered a talk in the pub, good dialogue and questions, then hopped the bus back downtown for dinner with the group.  Had a nice chat with a retired PriceWaterhouseCoopers exec and a prof from the school.

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Was up seriously early Thursday morning, out the door to the bus and the airport and a 7:25 flight south to Stockholm.  Had a nice chat at the airport with Angelos, the Greek Ph.D. student I met two days earlier, and a Romanian post-doc.  Angelos was headed home to Thessaloniki for a long weekend, and the other guy was headed to a Cloud-computing conference in Silicon Valley.  I collected my suitcase and walked across the airport to the train station, where I donned a necktie and changed into dress shoes.  A couple minutes later a woman with a T-shirt that read “Keep Minnesota Green,” ambled toward me.  Naturally that started a fine T-t-S.  Kim was indeed from my native state, headed north to Dalarna for a funeral of a cousin two generations older.  Through the years she had been back to the land her grandfather left in 1905, and in fact had bought the ancestral home a few years earlier.  It was a fascinating chat, and a nice marker of the value of the jet plane: Kim owns a second home more than 4,000 miles from her first!

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Changing on the fly!

Hopped on the train, gliding 18 miles north to Uppsala, a historic town: seat of kings and of the Swedish (Lutheran) Church, and home of one of the first universities in Scandinavia, 1477.  It was my 8th visit there, and I knew my way from station to business school.  Worked my email and other stuff for an hour, and just before noon met Kim Larsson, a honcho with Ekonomerna, the student business association.  Delivered a talk on crisis management to a full house.  Said goodbye to Kim and tucked into a much-needed lunch, haddock and potatoes, in the student cafeteria.  Worked a bit more, and from four to six gave another talk.

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On the previous two visits to Uppsala I stayed with friends Hans and Mia Kjellberg, but Hans was traveling, so I booked an astonishingly cheap ($33) Airbnb room less than two blocks from school. My host was out for dinner, and hid the key.  In no time was changed into jeans and out the door, into the center for a beer and dinner.  Swedish food is swell, but I needed some spice, so found a serviceable Thai place for a green curry with tofu.  As I was tucking in, an email arrived from a client, asking for some urgent work, so I paid the bill and walked briskly back to Skolgatan 1. My Airbnb host, Dr. Olle Svenson, had returned, and we had a nice chat – he was a professor of electrical engineering, and a musician.  I would have liked to yak some more, but needed to get my homework done and sent across the Atlantic.  It was a long day, and I was asleep by 9:30.

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Uppsala Cathedral above the Fyris River, and Linneaus’ garden

Up early Friday morning, out the door, down the hill to the train station.  I passed the old house and garden of one of Uppsala’s most famous scholars, Carl Linneaus (the fellow that gave us the taxonomic system for flora and fauna), who lived there from 1743 until his death in 1788; he cultivated more than 3,000 plant species, making it one of the largest botanic gardens in Europe.  Cool!  The Swedish newsagent chain Presbyrån has complete breakfast fixings to take away, so I grabbed a cinnamon bun, yogurt, banana, and a large coffee, and ambled up to track 7.  Ate in a platform waiting room, then hopped on the 8:06 train into Stockholm, 35 miles south.  The SJ (Swedish State Railways) regional train was quite new, and really comfy – when I boarded, I asked a fellow traveler if we were in First Class.  Free wi-fi, nice seats, spotlessly clean, I wished I were travelling farther.

Continued in Part 2

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To the Heart of Texas and Goat

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World Championship Barbeque Goat Cook-off Judges Paul McCallum and Alfonse Dotson

By long tradition – back 27 years to 1991 – summer’s last trip was over Labor Day weekend, down to Brady, Texas, to be a judge in the World Championship Barbeque Goat Cook-off.  Hopped the Metro to National Airport, flight to Dallas/Fort Worth, and rendezvous with son Jack, who has also been judging, nearly a decade now.  We picked up the rental car and zipped west to Fort Worth and the venerable Paris Coffee Shop, just south of downtown.  It’s old-time Foat Wuth at its best, with waitresses who call you Hon or Sweetie.  They’re also known for homemade pies (pronounced more like “pah” in the Lone Star State), but we opted for treats at the Dairy Queen in Comanche, Texas, about 120 miles west.  We arrived in Brady at 4:15, time for some exercise before dinner at Fat Boys’ BBQ, wonderful turkey breast and a big ol’ jalapeño sausage link, plus beans, Cole slaw, and wot brayud (you can figure that out!).  Back to the hotel room, watch some football, and clock out early.

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Lake Lewisville, north of Dallas; North Texas was blessed with good summer rainfall, and these reservoirs were full.  The right amount.

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Still life, Paris Coffee Shop; in Texas, it’s important to have plenty of spicy condiments at the table

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Your scribe, southwest of Comanche, Texas

Up at 5:30, down to the gym on the fitness bike, showered up, and off to the judges’ brunch.  We normally convene in Melvin, Texas, 18 miles west of Brady, but this time we were set up at Jacoby’s Railyard.  The Jacoby family in Melvin are clever people, rural visionaries, and they have built a good business milling grain, and now playing a part in logistics.  There’s a small branch line that runs 67 miles from the mainline of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) to the east, and the Jacobys essentially run the town freight yard.  Jason Jacoby explained it all as we entered the building.  It was good to be back with a fine and familiar bunch of good ole boys.  We tucked into a filling brunch, were formally introduced (my long tenure got me promoted to senior judge in 2016), and got our (by now familiar) marching orders.

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At Jacoby’s Railyard

Drove to the cook-off venue, Richards Park, and strolled around the grounds for a couple of hours, yakking with cookers, fellow judges, and strangers.  Some years back, the local chamber of commerce, which organizes the event, added “Mystery Meat” judging, and at two we started on pork ribs, which we generally excellent.   Senior judges sample and rate two types of entrants, Super Bowl (open only to first-place finishers in any of the prior 43 years), and the current-year competition.  There were nine SB entries, and we ranked those in short order, then waited for the 200 current entries to winnow down to the best 18.  It’s hard work, made easier with cold beer and a lot of good-natured ribbing.

Toward the end of the judging, a nice T-t-S moment with an older Mexican fellow, who with his family had driven five hours from Muleshoe, Texas (northwest of Lubbock in the Panhandle) to the event, their first visit.  “We don’t know nothing,” he said, so I gave him a quick overview of the cook-off, then handed him two foam containers of already-judged goat, adding “don’t tell anyone about this.”  Without missing a beat, he reprised: “We don’t know nothing.”  Each year, the cook-off becomes yet more diverse, and that makes your correspondent hopeful.  E pluribus unum, y’all.

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The Waco Boys, perennial entrants, with solid branding!

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Your scribe with royalty: Miss Heart of Texas; once upon a time, they were all Anglos, and we celebrate the evolution!

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Judges assessing entrants in the competition for best cooking rig

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Paul, captain of the Goat Willies team from Brownwood, Texas, and veteran judge Eddie Sandoval, my favorite Hispanic Apache!  Paul told me his cooking team has, over the years, raised $160,000 for charities in his hometown

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Goat Willies’ entry; Paul was concerned about too much heat, and was dampening the fire

The cook-off is, like the Minnesota State Fair the week before, one of those serial experiences that give comfort, and it was so wonderful to be back in Texas in general and small-town Texas in particular.  I noted above that Minnesota will always be Home, but Texas runs a close second.

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The first-place winners in pork ribs (left), and the main event, goat.  Yum!

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Senior judges Terry Keltz, Eddie Sandoval, Jerry Marshall, Gary Brown, and Kim King

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Cupla more good ole boys.  Yessir!

The judging over, Jack and I hopped in the car, retracing the route (including a stop at the DQ in Comanche), and were back in DFW by 8:15.  Dropped him at his pal Lawson’s house in North Dallas, then continued on to my bunk with Peggy and Ken Gilbert.  Hadn’t seen them in about a year, and it was good to catch up.  Ken and I worked together at American Airlines, and we’re both retired.  We caught up on family and travel (they are intrepid globetrotters, recently returned from Easter Island in the South Pacific).

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U.S. Highway 377 north of Brady, Texas

Up Sunday morning, a slow start with coffee and a good yak in the kitchen, then north to breakfast at the Maple Leaf Diner, dropped Ken at home, and out to the airport.  I had some time, so I motored past American’s corporate headquarters, passing the several buildings where I had worked.  It had been almost exactly 30 years since I pointed the silver Ford south from St. Paul to take up a job with a company that provided so much wonderful opportunity over more than two decades.  I paused to think about the day I crossed the Red River into Texas, October 5, 1987, and drove to the low building on Amon Carter Blvd. to start work.  I drove on to what we affectionately called “Taco Villa,” the vaguely Spanish Colonial apartment complex where I lived for three months before the family moved down.  Headed west to see, from a distance, the huge new headquarters complex that American is building.   Then back to the big airport for the Silver Bird home to Washington and the end of a colossal summer of travel, just some great trips: Vienna, London, Montana, Argentina, the beach, the fair, Up North, back “homes,” and lots more.

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“Taco Villa,” looking the same as 30 years ago!

 

 

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Minnesota, for the State Fair and “Up North”

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A lot of food at the fair comes on a stick; this was a fun effort to get kids excited about numbers!

Whooshed west on Thursday, August 24 for the annual visit to the Minnesota State Fair.  As I note every August in these pages, I have not missed the fair since the mid-1980s.  The morning nonstop from Washington left later than in 2016, arrived late, then car-rental snafus, thus I did not get to the fairgrounds district until after one.  It was opening day, and there were no parking places to be found.  Five pals were waiting.  I lucked out, spotting Mary on a bike at the corner of Simpson St. and Nebraska Ave.; she was waving a small round sign that read $20.  Done.  If I wasn’t already way late, I would have chatted with her, for in the first minute I learned she was from Harlowton, Montana, less than 10 miles from where my dad was born.  It would have been a memorable T-t-S, I’m sure!

I walked as fast as my gimpy knees would allow, and was hugging pals in front of the Fine Arts Building about 1:40.  Longtime friends Rick Dow, Bob Woehrle, and Steve Schlachter were there, as was Randy Essell, two-decade colleague from American Airlines making his first visit to the fair (his brother has lived in Minneapolis for years), and a new guy, Jim, a college pal of Steve’s.  We chatted a bit, then headed into the juried show.  For nearly 30 years, we’ve been buying art from the show.  Before leaving, Linda issued strict instructions: no more landscapes.  I concurred, because we’ve got plenty of lovely country scenes from all over Minnesota, from Lake Superior to wheat fields in the drier western reaches.  Not three minutes inside, I spotted a wonderful pastel, titled “City Garden,” and sent Linda a pic from my iPhone.  We walked the rest of the show, but there was none nicer than the pastel, and I bought it (patrons collect the art after the show; I typically pick it up from the artist, so I can meet him or her).

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Arms folded: two other works at the art show, a multimedia work and an acrylic painting

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“City Garden,” soon to hang in our house; at right, Mary, an art show volunteer, affixes the little red dot that means the work has been sold

The fair itinerary has been fixed for many years.  After the art show, we headed for the Creative Activities building to be dazzled by the broad spectrum of crafts, hobbies, and pastimes, everything from folk art to fine woodworking to needlepoint to dill pickles (we marveled at the many different categories: dill with garlic is in a different group than dill without garlic!).  As always, we thought briefly about smashing the glass doors and sampling the cookies, pies, and cakes, especially the mixed berry and peach pies from a Duluth woman – blue ribbons for both.  Avocations are alive and well in my homeland.

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From the sublime to the ridiculous in the Creative Activities building: the sweepstakes winner in knitting and a flying pig (who also was on skis, being a Minnesotan).

Stop three is the horticulture building, and in our zeal to slake our thirst at the stand of the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild we missed the giant vegetables, crop art, and other charms.  But the beer stop was a lot of fun, a chance to yak about our summer travels, a bit of politics (well, Rick and me), and more.  Refreshed, we headed for the stands of two ultra-popular fair foods, deep-fried cheese curds and roasted sweet corn.  Yum.

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The group: Steve, Bob, Randy, Rick, Jim, and your correspondent

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We toasted these friendly hockey players (one of whom took our group photo), to be married on December 15

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Roasted sweet corn is one of the huge — and relatively healthy — State Fair treats; at right my friend Steve tucking into an ear.

Last stop were the animal barns.  Looking back, I wished we had slowed a bit, but Rick and I managed a nice T-t-S with Caroline, a fourth-generation Minnesota farmer, recently graduated from South Dakota State University with a degree in ag sciences, as well as shorter chats with several 4-H kids showing their rabbits, pigs, and cattle.  I stroked a number of animal heads and faces, even a bristly Yorkshire hog, quietly whispering thanks to God and to them for the gift of domestic animals.  And as I did the previous month with ranchers Ed and Bev, I thanked a woman hog farmer for what she did.  She started to tear up.  Not enough city people either understand or recognize their hard work.

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Caroline, from Waseca, Minnesota, and her year-old crossbreed ewe, who has already given birth to the lamb at right.

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More of God’s critters: a 4-H service dog (every old person said, “Awwww, Lassie”), and goat siblings

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The true last stop was one more beer and some more chatter on park benches, then a brisk walk with Randy back to my rental car.  He needed a ride to dinner with a friend, and because we had some time, I drove him through familiar St. Paul neighborhoods, even past 1032 Goodrich, our very first house.  Dropped him at an eatery near Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis, then zipped west to the home of Rick and Murph Dow in Edina, the suburb where I grew up.  I had not seen Murph for two years, so it was good to catch up.  We three had a good yak, some pizza, and off to sleep before ten.

Up way early, did some consulting work for an hour, had a cup of coffee and another yak, and hugged them at 7:35, motoring across familiar ground to the apartment of Marlys Chase, my fair buddy Steve’s mom, who I’ve known for more than 50 years.  Mrs. C. kindly agreed to make us a full breakfast, plus more good chatting.  She is 87 and still going strong, half Norwegian and half Swedish – the Scandinavians live a long time, whether in the old world or the new.  Said goodbye at 9:30, motored north to the pleasant Linden Hills neighborhood for another cup of coffee, with friend-since-1967 Jim Grandbois.  We had not seen each other in six years, and it was good to catch up.  I think of Jim each morning when I sit down to work, because before getting into real estate, he and his brother were furniture makers, and the keyboard sits on a still gorgeous parquet walnut table made in 1979.  Thanks, Jim!

At 11, I pointed the rented Prius toward “Up North,” as Minnesotans call it.  Motored north on U.S. Highway 169, around the huge Mille Lacs Lake, and northwest to Crow Wing County and the cabin of another long (since 1963) friend, Tim McGlynn, on the north shore of Big Trout Lake.  Tim and I immediately fell into the substantive yaks that I’ve enjoyed for years.  He’s very well informed, and we share a world view about the market economy (good and bad), politics, and more.  Just as I plopped down for a short nap I heard the wonderful cry of the loon, one of the definitive sounds of Up North.  At five, we jumped into his boat and headed east and south through a chain of lakes to beer and dinner at Moonlite Bay.  That part of Up North is filled with people from Edina, and we met a number of old pals there.  Lots of fun.  Headed back, read for a bit, and clocked out.

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On Swanburg Lane, the road into Tim’s cabin

Woke in the middle of the night to light rain, which continued for the next 30 hours.  Drove through the wet Saturday morning to breakfast in Crosslake with former Republic Airlines colleague George Rasmusson, one of the funniest people I know.  As expected, by the end of the meal my stomach hurt from laughing.  We got caught up, and reminisced about our times at Republic.  I reprised one of the jokes he told me in January 1986 – that I could still tell it as he did 31 years earlier says a lot!  The wet scrubbed plans for a long bike ride.

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Left, Big Trout Lake from my bedroom; right, the McGlynn cabin from the dock

Spent late morning and all afternoon at the cabin, which had been custom built in 2016, a lovely place.  Tim’s older son Patrick was there with his new wife Molly, and we had a nice visit.  Took a nap, yakked some more with Tim about the current state of the world, and at five motored eight miles to the Norway Ridge Supper Club, a wonderful old place.  Tucked into my second Up North meal of walleye, Minnesota’s famed fish (though nowadays restaurants typically source them from Canada), and more good chatter.  Tim is a quality guy, and there’s never much silence.  Best topic that night was the corrosive role of private equity firms.

Up at dawn Sunday morning, still raining, though lightly.  Ambled down to the dock to listen to the loons, then back up to the cabin, hugs to Molly, Paddy, and Tim, then breakfast: leftover fish and potatoes from the night before, fulfilling my objective of three walleye meals in my homeland.  Into the car for a zippy drive back to the Twin Cities. I was back in my hometown of Edina by 11:05.  Motored west on 66th Street, across Richfield, retracing a route we took on bikes 50 years earlier, riding out to see the planes take off and land at MSP.  Just before the airport, I stopped to pray thanks at the grave of my dear dad in Fort Snelling National Cemetery.  I held the headstone tightly.  It would be impossible to express enough gratitude for our freedom.  Flew home.  Such a joy to be in Minnesota.

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Thanks, Dad.  And thanks to Russ, Roy, William, and countless others.

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