Monthly Archives: April 2010

Easter with Family, and Helping the New Mom

On the second day of April, I rose at six, pounded out ten miles on the bike, drove to the airport, and flew to Washington Dulles. I was excited on many levels, mostly to see our new granddaughter Carson Olivia, born March 15. Linda flew to Reston a week earlier, to help out. It was Good Friday, and I spent some time on the flight thinking about faith and service; for the last 20 years, I have firmly believed that Jesus’ main lessons to us are not that many, and not that hard. On that day, it was about selflessness, the Son of God saying “well, the charges against me are bogus, but I will give myself up, all of me.” Serving others is a duty all of us should embrace; along the way, we learn the joy of it, too.

I was surrounded by new life – a 10-month across the aisle, a 14-month-old in the next row (and her mom pregnant), two little ones in the row behind. All those youngsters heightened the anticipation of seeing our two.

We landed at 1:30, in no time Robin zoomed up, and we were at their house in 10 minutes.

Cherry blossoms in front of Robin's and Brett's house

It was nap time, but soon the new life came to life, Dylan up from her nap, three-week-old Carson squalling for milk. Dylan had last seen me at Christmas, and was initially shy. That lasted less than 20 minutes, and in no time we were out in the fresh spring air, walking along one of the many wooded walking/biking paths that make Reston such a nice place to live. I was walking, but Dee-Dee was riding a tricycle with a long handle that I pushed. We soon came to Stella, a border collie holding a soft “dog Frisbee” in its mouth. Stella’s owner gave me the go-ahead, and I tossed the disc many times, delighting Dylan (and me). We moved east, admiring a small creek, chirping frogs, and lots of squirrels, visible then not – prompting Dylan to ask “Where’d he go?”

Robin and Brett needed a night out, so Linda and I pitched in with feeding, bath for Dylan, story time.

Linda (Nana) and Carson

They were home by 8:45, and we peeled off, but not before I heard the best words for a long time: Robin asked Dylan if she could say good night, and she replied “Good night, Pots” (I am Pops, but that’s close enough, plus I kinda like being like a sturdy and well-worn cast-iron pan). Linda and I checked into the Hyatt Reston, less than two miles from their house, had a noisy Italian dinner (the restaurant fire alarm could not be disarmed), and clocked out. Saturday was more of the same, walks (this time to the playground, big fun on swings and slides).

Uncle Jack and Carson

Jack arrived, fresh from a visit with a buddy in the area. High point of the afternoon was drawing with sidewalk chalk in front of their house, Dylan urging more chicks, bunnies, and flowers with a simple plea: “Pots, draw?” What a cutie-pie.

Easter Sunday morning, Linda and I got up at 5:30 and drove into Washington for 8:00 service at the National Cathedral, a wonderful experience. We drove back to Reston, met the family, enjoyed a swell brunch, and Jack and I flew home at the end of the day.

Entry doors, Washington National Cathedral

A week later, on Sunday the 11th, I was back with Robin, Brett, and the two girls; it was my week to help out. I approached the time with some trepidation, and by two on Monday afternoon my concerns were validated: this was hard work. I called Linda and repeated one of my firm beliefs: if men had to do the childbearing and the child-rearing, the species might disappear! Monday was a stay-at-home day, except for a morning trip to a “kid gym.” Tuesday was busier: drove Dylan to pre-school, and Robin took her to an afternoon play group. Both days, I spent a lot of time with Carson the newbie, feeding, changing, holding (she does not like to be alone). Was asleep by 10:10 the first three nights.

Dylan climbing at the kid gym

By Wednesday morning, I was getting into the groove, the routine. Dylan and I spent a couple of hours at the Udvar-Hazy Center, part of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, basically an enormous hangar south of Dulles Airport (and less than ten miles from home).

Dylan and one of my favorite jets, the Boeing Dash 80 (1954)

Dee-dee had been there a few months earlier, and she was excited to be back. “Airplanes!” she exclaimed, again and again. And of course the Transport Geek enjoyed being around all those flying machines, civil and military – the SR-71 that flew from L.A. to Dulles in just over an hour, whoa; the Enola Gay that visited enormous hurt on Japan but spared lots of American soldiers and sailors; the Concorde, the Space Shuttle, and more. My fave, though, was the Dash 80, built 1954, Boeing’s very first airliner. It made me smile. I took a picture of Dylan, tiny, standing in front of it. And I thought two things: how much great good has flowed from that invention; and how lucky I have been to have been part of the business that brought all that good.

After afternoon naps, the three girls and I piled into Robin’s car and motored to the mall, to the L.L. Bean store, to make a couple of returns, and an early dinner. A great day.

The next day went fast. Every Thursday morning, a nice Chilean lady, Miss Erika, takes care of Dylan and Hudson, another toddler, in the morning, so moms get some time off. That day, Robin, Carson, and I went to Starbucks for a break, then to Carsy’s one-month check up with Dr. Ruth Hunt. Good numbers, including two pounds of weight gain. Dr. Hunt’s sure hands and eyes reminded me of my appreciation for docs. Dylan and I spent a long time at a small playground a four-minute walk from their house, back to the routine from earlier in the week: first the swings (after putting her in a kid chair swing, she would point to the adjacent bigger swing, and say “Pots, try?”), then the slide, carrying two handfuls of pine cones to the top and sending them down before we descended, again and again; then back to the swings, “Pots, try?” The afternoon ended with a long walk along wooded trails. On the way back, we tossed the dog Frisbee to Stella, like we did a fortnight earlier. And at seven, the fifth bath of the week, a pretty wild time, with splashing and bath toys, small balls flying around the tub, and your correspondent banging out rhythm with plastic cups on the tub wall, Dylan squealing and bouncing to the beat. “Pots, again?” “Pots, one more time?”

Friday morning, I was a little sad. I had gotten pretty good at all those tasks, getting Dylan’s juice and breakfast together, making coffee, changing diapers. I hugged everyone, Brett drove me back to Dulles, and I flew home.

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Twice to Canada, Eh!

On Wednesday, March 24, I met former workmate and pal-since-1963 Steve Schlachter for a cup of coffee near the airport, then flew up to Vancouver for my fifth annual lecture at the University of British Columbia. Having seen a lot of the city and province during the Winter Olympics a month earlier, I was delighted to visit. For the first time in my spring lectures, we landed in clear weather, a lovely day. And for the first time I was able to ride a train from the airport to downtown, the Canada Line that opened in 2009 in time for the games.

Canada Line train, Vancouver Airport

It’s a great ride, driverless, and 26 minutes to town. The escalator from Waterfront station surfaced in the wonderful 1914 Canadian Pacific Railway station, once the terminus of that great transcontinental line.

Waiting room, former Canadian Pacific Railway terminus

The waiting room was restored 25 years ago (it’s also a station for the suburban commuter line called the West Coast Express), and it’s a lovely sight.

Ambled a block north to the Fairmont Waterfront, my usual digs in Vancouver, checked in, worked my e-mail, and walked a couple of blocks to see old friends at the head office of the oneworld airline alliance. It was great to catch up with Kathy Mullen, a friend back to the days of American’s investment in Canadian Airlines, plus Brit Michael Blunt (visiting from London), and others. I met for a bit with Nicolas Ferri, the #2 man, who has hired me for some consulting. A nice visit.

New Vancouver Convention Center and Coal Harbor

The view from the oneworld offices; a modern place, eh?

Early in every visit to Canada, I have an “Aha!” moment, when I look around, smile, and say to myself, “everyone is covered – they all have health insurance.” That day, it happened on the 044 express bus out to UBC. It’s always a nice reminder that Canada is a fairer and more equal place. I love my country, but it is not the just society that many think it is. My Aha happened the day after President Obama signed the health-reform bill, a step in the right direction, but still not the universal coverage that every other industrial country provides its citizens.

Spring! Rhododendron blossoms on the UBC campus

We arrived at UBC 35 minutes later, the campus buzzing with mid-afternoon activity, everyone enjoying the sun and relative warmth. I ambled around the campus for an hour or so, and at 5:15 met my host, Professor Tae Oum, a friendly fellow. Delivered my lecture on airline alliances to an engaged (and largely Asian) class.

More spring! Students attempting to scale a wall, UBC campus

Afterward, Tae’s teaching assistant, Mia Zhou, and two students, Gabrielle from Lyon, France, and Abi from Mauritius, and I drove to Granville Avenue in search of Vij’s, a highly regarded Indian restaurant that I had read about. Unhappily, the wait was 90 minutes, so we headed up the street to a Korean barbecue restaurant for a hybrid Japanese-Korean meal – sushi and sashimi for appetizer, and Korean main course, cooked on braziers at the table. Lots of fun, and great chatter. High point was Tae telling his story of how he arrived in Canada from Korea, and stayed. He also entertained the Transport Geek with a lot of information about his consulting work with Japan Central Railway, operators of the Shinkansen high-speed trains between Tokyo and Osaka (just two tidbits: at peak times, trains operate every three minutes in both directions, and 200 million per year ride the line). Tae drove me back to my hotel. It was past 10:30 and I was beat.

Was up before seven on Thursday morning. The Fairmont doorman’s prediction, a day earlier, of “100% chance of grim [weather]” looked close to true, but it was not yet raining, so I signed out a cool bicycle and helmet and took off on bikeways, north around Stanley Park, along English Bay, and the north bank of False Creek, to the Olympic Village (now quiet), and back to the hotel, 13 miles, a great and invigorating ride. Vancouver is a lovely city, and the cyclist sees and benefits from a lot of smart planning. The province’s logo declares it “The Best Place on Earth,” which is close to true.

High point of the ride were the hundreds of massive evergreens in the park – it is the land of big trees. The rain began just as I wheeled back into the hotel driveway. Grabbed a quick breakfast at Tim Horton’s, the Canadian coffee and donut institution (and perhaps my favorite fast-food place), and hopped back on the Canada Line, riding not to the airport, but to the center of Richmond, the heavily Asian suburb just south of the runways.

Chinese Barbecue, Richmond Public Market

I ambled a couple of blocks in steady rain to the Richmond Public Market, busy with Chinese shoppers buying produce (one stand had a dozen varieties of the greens similar to bok choy), meat, spices, herbs, and more. It was an interesting place.

Chinese Eggplant, Richmond Public Market

Headed back to the airport, checked in, and sat down for lunch at another Tim Horton’s, where I met Harvey and Margie Rice, a grain and livestock farmer and fourth-grade (or Grade 4, as they say in Canada) teacher respectively, from Lacombe, Alberta, halfway between Calgary and Edmonton. They were headed to Hawai’i for the first time, and were pretty excited. We yakked for 40 minutes. I’ve met many Canadians, and can tell you that the Rices were as fine a couple of ambassadors from our northern neighbor as I’ve met in my nearly 43 years of travel, embodying the finest and most decent traits of that big country. We covered a lot of topics, nodding our heads in agreement. And in 3 hours and 30 minutes, I was back in Texas.

I maybe should have stayed north of the border, because on the following Monday morning I flew to Toronto. Landed at three, caught the #192 bus, the Airport Rocket, then the subway into town (my “everyone has health insurance” moment happened on the train). By 4:15 I was yakking with my longtime geographer-friend Tony Lea in his office at Environics Analytics, a marketing analytics and research firm heavily focused on geodemographics – the science of using information about who lives where, in this case to solve various marketing challenges. We had a good chat and headed to dinner with a couple of his colleagues, Jan and Catherine.

We yakked the next morning, had a fun lunch with two younger geographers, and I peeled off, spending the afternoon wandering around downtown Toronto – it was a sunny spring day, which put smiles on lots of people.

Osgoode Hall, an historic center of Canadian law

Downtown residential development continues, the recession notwithstanding, with many new towers going up. Poked around City Hall a bit, admiring the statue of Winston Churchill and some interesting interpretive text on adjacent panels. During his second visit to Canada in 1929, he wrote his wife:

I am greatly attracted to this country. Immense developments are going forward. Never in my whole life have I been welcomed with so much genuine interest . . . as throughout this vast country. I am profoundly touched and I intend to devote my strength to interpreting Canada to my people and vice-versa.

His words made my smile, because they mirrored my thoughts about this vast and wonderful land early in my travels there, and more than 60 visits later, I still feel that way.

Old City Hall

I ambled north on University Avenue to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, housed in a ponderous Romanesque Revival building, and in no time I was sitting in the house gallery.

Flags of Canada and Ontario in front of the Legislative Assembly

No contentious issues were on the table, only some discussion about joining the national government in affirming April 9 as a day to remember Vimy Ridge, a battle in World War I that was pivotal in forging Canadian national identity. The Premier of Ontario, Dalton McGuinty, and the leaders of the two opposition parties, also delivered speeches marking the death of John Babcock, the last Canadian to serve in “the war to end all wars.” We paused for a moment of silence, and I moved on to the University of Toronto to see a couple of colleagues in the business school, then back out to the airport and home, passing four of the Great Lakes in short order.

We were back in Texas, home, just before sunset.

The Red River, boundary between Texas and Oklahoma

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