Monthly Archives: November 2011

Thanksgiving Week: New York (for a few hours) and Washington, D.C.

Loudoun County Courthouse, Leesburg, Virginia

On Monday the 21st I flew up to New York.  Despite its importance, it’s a place I seldom visit, usually just once a year.  It was a detour – actual destination was Washington, DC, for Thanksgiving with Robin and our cutie-pie granddaughters.  The original plan, followed since 2005, was to head up to The Big Apple the day before and present a seminar at Business Today conference organized by Princeton students, but this time they canceled my gig, citing budget woes (I’ve always worked that one for free, so it wasn’t me that was costing!).  I had set up a (overdue) chat in New York with a longtime friend, Pete Pappas, so I kept that one.

Foliage, Central Park

As always, hopped in a cab for a short, cheap ride from LaGuardia to Jackson Heights, then the express subway into Manhattan – way cheaper and almost always faster than a taxi all the way.  It was a nice day and I had an hour, so I grabbed a sandwich, chips, and a bottled mango smoothie at a deli, and found a park bench on Central Park South, facing that marvelous green space.  Over my left shoulder was the huge bronze of José San Martín, riding horseback, bound to liberate Argentina, Peru, and Chile; he had my back.  In front of me was a swell mix of tourists and locals: visitors riding the horse-drawn carriages, skateboarding youth, kids climbing one of those enormous igneous boulders that bulge everywhere in the park (and add a splendid wildness), and the last bright hues of fall foliage.  It was a nice place, in a place I generally don’t like.

The view from my picnic spot on Central Park South

A little after one I walked into Pete and Ivy Pappas’ apartment, right on Central Park South.  Gave them hugs and remarked that in 40+ years of travel to New York, I had only been in three or four Manhattan apartments – dwellings widely reckoned to be at the apex of urban life.  It was a pretty cool pad.  We had a great yak, and just after three I left the building, walked less than 40 feet to a the Columbus Circle subway station, rode four stops south to Penn Station, then the Long Island Rail Road to Jamaica, Queens, then the AirTrain to Kennedy Airport ($13.75 and 40 minutes, vs. $50 in a taxi and traffic jams).

American Eagle flies JFK to Washington National.  I fully expected the huge delays that are so typical of that route, but we boarded on time, pushed back from the gate, and were airborne within ten minutes – I have flown out of JFK more than 30 times in four decades, and had never escaped so quickly.  Landed at National, hopped on the Metro, and was at friend Carl Nelson’s house in Capitol Hill just after seven (he and wife Mary had gone to the Capitals hockey game, so I used the secret way in).

Mary and I had a good yak the next morning, and I headed out.  My corner office for the morning was to be the main reading room of the Library of Congress, a mile west.  I had not been there since 1976, when I was doing dissertation research and was looking forward to it.  (There was some nice symmetry between then and now: in both cases, research and writing about the travel and tourism industry.)

Row houses, Capitol Hill neighborhood, Washington

A few things had changed since then, notably security and ease of access – I needed to get a library card, but that was fast, and I opened my laptop about 9:15 in that fabulous hall.  It had been beautifully renovated sometime between ’76 and ’11, and was much fancier than I remembered it.  Above me was the giant rotunda of the main library, now called the Jefferson Building, stunning painted plaster detail, cherubs, gods and goddesses of varied knowledge.  Around me in radiating circles were oak desks.  Above me were seraphim holding a tablet that read “The inquiry, knowledge, and belief of truth is the sovereign good of human nature.”  Whew!  Nice inspiration!

I had to leave my backpack in a cloakroom, and honestly did not see the signs strictly prohibiting photos, so I snapped a couple.  Way cool.  Mostly, though, I put my head down and worked hard for a few hours.  They had free wireless, but like many libraries it was impossible (for me, at least) to send e-mails, so after a huge lunchtime burrito I repaired to a more familiar “corner office,” the Starbucks at 3rd Street and Pennsylvania Avenue SE.  Sat in the front window and worked, out of the cold rain.  Atop a bank across the street, I spotted a some words that made me nod and wish for older values; carved into the stone on the cornice molding were the words “Dedicated to Thrift.”  Indeed, for in addition to refocusing on the common good, we need to save more.  And, yes, we can do both.

When I headed to lunch on Tuesday, the capitol seemed to be in lockdown, including police on bikes!

I got a lot more done in a couple hours, and about 3:30 I walked back to Carl’s and Mary’s.  Worked and yakked with Mary, telling stories, laughing.  Carl arrived home after seven, we had a nice dinner of spaghetti and (IKEA) meatballs, I cleaned up the kitchen, and clocked out.

Next day, same drill, into the reading room a bit earlier, banging away on the keys.  Head down, got a lot done.  At noon I met daughter Robin for lunch at Georgia Brown’s, one of my favorite restaurants, specializing in cooking from the “Low Country” of coastal Carolina and Georgia.  Yum!  We motored out to Reston, I checked into the Hyatt at Reston Town Center, and we zipped out to Leesburg, 20 miles west, where Robin had a meeting.  I peeled off to King Street Coffee for a cup and a wi-fi connection, and went back to work.  Leesburg is the seat of Loudoun County, once rural and now suburbanizing rapidly, but the downtown is a nice mix of buildings going back to the early 19th Century.  Admired the old courthouse and some solid commercial buildings on King Street.

Main Street, Leesburg

At 4:30 we drove back to Reston.  Granddaughters Dylan and Carson arrived with their dad a few minutes later.  It was so good to see them, and a new arrival, Henry the West Highland Terrier, an energetic (aren’t all terriers?) puppy.  We bonded instantly, and I gave him middle name, Angus, a true Scot.  Linda arrived a couple hours later, the kids went to sleep, and we peeled off to the hotel.

Thanksgiving morning dawned fair and cool.  We motored back to the house, and played with the kids.  At 1:30 we drove to the East Falls Church Metro station.  Dylan likes to ride the train, and so does her gramps (Pots, that’s me), so this was a great way to get to dinner at Founding Farmers, a great restaurant in downtown Washington that specializes in locally-sourced comfort food.  We had a great meal (and no clean-up!).  Outside the restaurant were some cool fountains that kept the kids and me busy for quite a while – we got wet, but not that wet.  It was a lovely day.

Friday was busy and fun.  We saw the first 20 minutes of a holiday parade in Reston Town Center, then headed into the movies to see The Muppets.  Loved it, seeing Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, Janis (“fer sure”), and the others.  And the kids liked it, too.  Carson does not understand the need for silence in the cinema, which added to the fun; when Camilla and her brood started singing a number, Carson replied “Cock-a-doodle-doo”!  Too cute.  After the show, we headed back to the hotel room (conveniently just a block away) for some bed-jumping, then out for a bit of shopping and an early dinner.  Lots of fun.

Dylan and Henry playing Tug of War

 

Saturday morning was still warm and sunny, and Pots put the kids in the Radio Flyer wagon and Henry Angus on leash, and off on a wooded trail to a small playground.  The tots loved it, Henry loved it, and I was plumb wore out by the end – swinging swings, climbing the slide latter, making sure neither girl fell, chasing Henry when he pulled the leash away.  Whew!  But on the eve of my 60th birthday, it made me feel alive.  We were sad to say goodbye when we flew home that afternoon.  “When are you coming again, Potsy?” asked Dylan.  Those girls are such a blessing.

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West, North, East: Lubbock, Toronto, Montreal

Windmills new and old at the Wind Energy Museum, Lubbock, Texas

On Saturday morning, November 3, Linda and I flew to Lubbock, Texas, to celebrate an early Thanksgiving with Jack; he’s scheduled to work during the holiday, so west we flew.  Lubbock is the birthplace of the 1950s rock-and-roller Buddy Holly, so it fit that I cued a handful of his best hits “Rave On,” “It’s So Easy”) on the flight.  We landed and made fast for lunch at Montelongo, an old-school Mexican restaurant on the north edge of town.  After burritos and such, we drove south to the American Wind Energy Museum, a fabulous collection of windmills inside a big building and out in a big yard.  Towering over all of it was a 660-kilowatt wind turbine, the modern version of the old Aermotors and other windmills that brought water and motive power to much of pioneer America.  The collection was a fine reminder not to take the electrical grid or the water tap for granted – sprinkled throughout the building were stark black-and-white photographs of rural life in West Texas in decades past, always a windmill visible.  It was a Thanksgiving message.

A small part of the vast mural in the museum

After windmills, Jack drove us around Lubbock, mainly the newer suburban areas south of town.  We greatly enjoyed a ride through Vintage Township, a new development built on “new urbanism” principles of mixed architectural styles, house sizes, separation of cars and people, and design that fosters neighborly interaction (something we saw on the brief tour).  It was a really pleasant, visually interesting place.  After a brief break at our hotel, we headed out for our first Thanksgiving dinner, at a really nice place called Café J.  So good.  Headed back to the hotel to watch a little football and clocked out.

Not your typical suburb; "new urbanism" on the edge of Lubbock

Cotton field on the outskirts of Lubbock; the South Plains of Texas are one of the biggest sources of cotton production, grown with groundwater (that is slowly depleting).

Jack picked us up Sunday morning and we motored to an agreeable coffee house in his neighborhood, then to Home Café for brunch.  Huge.  I didn’t eat the rest of the day, which was spent at his nice little house then in flight back to Dallas.  At DFW, Linda headed home and I peeled off to Toronto, north for business and teaching.

The South Plains from above; circular patterns are from center-pivot irrigation systems; the group of buildings is The Ranch at Dove Tree, where Jack works.

We arrived late, 11:40.  Happily, the hotel was five minutes from the terminal, so head hit pillow a bit after 12:30.  Up Monday morning, down to the fitness center, worked some e-mail, a big breakfast (lunch would likely not work), and out the door, rolling my suitcase and backpack a few hundred meters for an AURA sales call on Sunwing, a small but plucky Canadian charter airline.  I first met the CEO, Mark Williams, in the 1990s when he was at Canadian Airlines.  We had a good meeting and they liked our product line.

Ambled back to the hotel and caught the shuttle back to the airport, then a quick Air Canada flight to Montreal.  Last time I flew standby on that route, in 2005, it took eight hours to get an open chair, but when I checked in for the 2 PM flight I got an assigned seat.  Woo hoo!  Arrived Montreal, bought a very cool three-day public transit ride card for $16 and hopped on the STM 747 Express Bus into downtown.  Unpacked, worked my e-mail.

Stained glass, McGill Station, Montreal Metro; this is a city that cares about aesthetics, in a subway station and elsewhere.

At six I walked east and south to the headquarters of the International Air Transport Association and met their General Counsel and longtime friend Gary Doernhoefer.  We zipped into a Depanneur, a convenience store, I bought six bottles of Quebec microbrew, and we headed to his condo.  Had a brewski and walked across the street to an Asian fusion restaurant for a good catch-up and a nice meal.

Up early Tuesday, to the hotel gym for a bike ride, then out the door for breakfast at Tim Horton’s (where else?), then over to the law school at McGill University for a lecture on airline alliances to Prof. Dempsey’s class (I’ve known Paul for years).  Back to the hotel, worked a bit, then onto the bus to Westmount, a pleasant inner suburb, and lunch at an Indian restaurant (serviceable, but not quite spicy enough!).  Back to McGill, to the business school and an afternoon lecture to MBAs.

New sculpture, Rue Sherbrooke; Montreal's art museum has been expanding into adjacent buildings, including the former church in the background

 

Laboratory, McGill University

On the McGill campus

Took a quick nap, out the door and onto the Metro, riding north to a favored spot, Biéres et Compagnie, a pub with lots of nice local and global brews, and simple food.  Had a venison burger and fries, two Quebec beers, yum.  The local hockey team, les Canadiens, were playing Edmonton on the big screens.  All very local.

Even more local was a detour into Renaud-Bray, a large independent bookstore on Blvd. St.-Denis.  Roaming through the place, I got a mental poke about how remarkable Quebec is, a huge (1.36 million sq. km.) French cultural “island” of nearly 8 million.  The Steve Jobs biography was already available en Français, as were thousands of other titles.  Not a lot of English spoken there.  The historical, political, and economic forces that created that “island” are complex (one example: in 1759, British forces actually defeated the French in a battle at Quebec City, but what became the Province of Quebec remained French in outlook, language, and culture).  What a place.  It fascinated me on my first visit 44 years earlier, and it still does.  Every time.

Inside the Renaud-Bray bookstore

Sanctuary of the Blessed Sacrament, part of an historic monastic community; the Roman Catholic Church was once an enormous presence in Quebec, but has waned in recent decades. Ecclesiastical architecture is a central feature of the Montreal landscape.

Was up way early Wednesday morning, back to Texas on a nonstop, landing well before noon.  Picked up the car and detoured a couple of miles to the Crate and Barrel warehouse to pick up three stools for our kitchen counter.  After a bit of maneuvering, I had them all loaded in my Toyota (small trunk – hybrid batteries take a lot of space), and was home by 12:45, walking MacKenzie.  After lunch, I unloaded the new stools and moved the old ones to the garage for donation.  I bought the old ones in January 1988, in our first month in our Texas house, and I was a bit wistful about parting with them.  They served well, nearly 24 years, and they still looked good.  They were made in Italy, frames of a very hard wood, woven cane seat bottoms.   Moving them out, I thought back to all their service: Jack eating a bowl of Cheerios, me enjoying a plate of leftovers after a long day at American, Robin eating lunch after a high school cross-country meet, Linda hosting a party, friends laughing.  The new ones are nice, ivory leather, in the same style as the chairs at the kitchen table.  Not surprisingly, they were made in China.  And I wondered: would they still look good after two dozen years? 

 

I was home almost two weeks, which was really nice.  The high points of those days were two Saturday mornings well spent, building wheelchair ramps.  On the 12th, my friend Ray and I build a ramp for a nice lady in East Dallas.  Arriving home from dialysis, she wept when she wheeled up the new ramp.  And my eyes welled up, too.  That’s why we build them. 

 

On the 19th, Ray and I got some help from a handful of 9th grade math students.  Before we left the ramp-project warehouse, he mentioned that one of his Kiwanis Club colleagues taught kids with development challenges, and asked if I wanted to do a bit of teaching that morning.  For sure, I replied, and off we went.  It was a great deal of fun – the kids were eager to learn, and Dr. Paula the instructor took every opportunity to turn ramp building into a geometry lesson.  Adding to the enjoyment was one of many street dogs who took a liking to our team, a real character, and a thief (at one point he had my iPhone between his jaws). 

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In Southern California

Southern California: the view looking up. I snapped this while lying on my back in an oceanfront park in Santa Barbara; as I have often written, we don't look up enough when we travel!

I flew to Los Angeles seriously early on Wednesday, Octobere 26.  The AURA team has been curious about Red, Virgin America’s new inflight entertainment system (from Goliath-competitor Panasonic), so I bought a ticket and flew them for the first time.  When everything’s new, airlines are great, and it was a nice ride.  I spent most of it taking snaps of the screens and documenting the “user experience.”  It’s a good system.  But ours is much better, and far less expensive!

Landed LAX just after eight, hopped on the shuttle to the Green Line train, then the express bus up Harbor Freeway, and was on the edge of the USC campus (my destination) in no time.  Waiting for the “Walk” sign at 39th and Figueroa, I looked at the young guy next to me toting basic law textbooks, and I said “looks like law school has just begun.”  He smiled and thus began a nice T-t-S walk of a few blocks, me listening to his laments about all the work, he hearing a summary of my life (prompted by my remark that he has it easy compared to Linda, who worked full time and studied law at night).  Shook his hand, wished him a great career, and ambled into Popovich Hall, then out onto a pleasant terrace to do some work and have a little more to eat.

My "corner office" on Wednesday

At 11:45, I met my host for the day, Kristin Diehl, and we headed into her undergrad consumer-behavior class.  Whoosh, the airline-advertising lecture done in a flash, whence we repaired to a new restaurant on campus for much-needed lunch.  I peeled off for a couple of hours, then repeated the lecture to the second section of her class.  Kristin drove me downtown to the rather fancy Marriott, an upgrade from my usual digs at a threadbare Radisson on campus.

Washed my face, changed clothes, ambled downstairs, and met my original USC host, Joe Nunes.  We motored across downtown to the Lazy Ox Canteen, a hip new place in Little Tokyo (but the cooking was California-local, not Japanese).  We had a meal of many yummy small dishes: Carpaccio, mixed salad, roasted shishito (Japanese green peppers), rabbit leg, and scallops, with a fabulous strawberry, rhubarb, and peach crumble for dessert.  Yum.  We had a good yak while eating – Joe is a good guy, always interesting.

Thursday was open until an evening MBA talk from 8:00 to 9:30.  After the hotel gym, I repaired to a nearby Starbucks “corner office” for breakfast and work.

Part of the view from my Thursday corner office, the Starbucks at 5th and Figueroa

Mid-morning I ambled back to the hotel, then walked a few blocks north to an even more agreeable corner office, in the State of California Community Park, a quiet, lushly green oasis on the west and south verges of Frank Gehry’s shiny and exuberant Walt Disney Concert Hall, the new home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic (or LA Phil as they now brand it).  I first visited the park in 2009 and thought “this would be a good place to work my laptop,” so was glad I remembered.  Work ended about one, headed for a spicy fish burrito, changed clothes, and at 2:41 jumped on the Big Blue Bus, Santa Monica’s transit system, and headed west on Interstate 10.

I was excited about the destination, 3616 Ashwood, in the Mar Vista neighborhood, not far from Venice Beach.  It was time for another reconnection, this time with Ellen Cox and Peter Quentin, who I first met in 1973 in Sydney, Australia.  In another time.  A time when young backpackers exchanged addresses of friends who would welcome an indirect friend.  In this case, I was in a youth hostel in New Zealand, and Brian Atkins gave me Ellen’s and Peter’s address on Glebe Point Road and said they would likely open their doors to me.  So about noon on Wednesday, August 1, I was in front of their rented terrace house on a sunny winter day.  Ellen and Peter were on the front balcony.  I told them Suzy Creamcheese sent me, and they let me in.  I saw them next in 1976, when they were briefly living in New York (and again offered a free bed), then for a few hours in January 1981 when they picked me up at LAX just before I boarded a Qantas flight for Australia, where I taught that year.  That was the last time.

Peter's and Ellen's address, from my 1973 journal

So it had been 30.5 years.  I had sort of stayed in touch, and I recall almost seeing them almost a decade ago, when Robin was still studying at USC.  We spent a joyful couple of hours, each taking turns summarizing three-plus decades of work, raising children (sometimes challenging for them, too), having fun.  We reminisced about long-distance budget travel back in the day, recounting various adventures.  In Sydney in the early 1970s, Peter was a musician and had a band; he still plays gigs, acoustic guitar, and is in the band at their synagogue.  As I have written before, there is something really wonderful about those reconnections.  Maybe it is simply that the paths again converge.  The two hours, with tea and scones on their patio, went far too quickly.  We hugged each other, took a picture of three young adventurers who still felt young, and Peter drove me to Venice Blvd.

I hopped on the 733 bus back to L.A.  It was called a Rapid, because it made limited stops, but it took ages – 80 minutes to go 12.5 miles.  Happily, I had a seat.  To my left was a Latina high school student, who boarded when I did, and immediately opened her Calculus textbook.  I pointed at a formula and saluted her diligence, a T-t-S moment made brief by my decision to let her concentrate on the differentiation, functions, and derivatives at hand!  Her commitment contrasted markedly with some loud and really foul-mouthed youngsters further back on the bus.  A rough census of the passengers: 92% Hispanic, 7% Black, 1% Anglo.  There was time to read The New York Times and a little of a new book.  And there was time to think about immigration.  I was happy to be riding the bus that day; as I have often written, public transit is a great way to get close to people you would otherwise not encounter.  It makes you think, not only about your privilege, but about their lives (two days earlier, I remarked aloud about the civility of a homeless man riding the Green Line, whose sense of politeness contrasted so much with the ornery behavior we often see at airports).

At Hoover Blvd., I hopped on the 200 bus.  I was running a little late, so I knotted a new red tie on the bus.  Was in Popovich Hall and in classroom 112 by 7:45.  The lecture went well; even at the end of a long day, after hours of work and school work, the part-time MBA students that comprised 90% of the class were still engaged.  At ten Joe drove me to the hotel and I clocked out.

Up early Friday morning.  Linda and I scored tickets to see USC play Stanford the next day (thanks to ongoing generosity of Debbie, an AA marketing colleague in Los Angeles), and since it made no sense to fly home, I had another day off.  Did a couple hours of AURA work, then walked across downtown L.A. to Union Station.  The walk was interesting.  It began on a high note, your scribe pausing to admire the Los Angeles Public Library (1926), first visited when Robin was at USC.  The 1991 renovation and expansion added some brilliant touches inside and out, but because it was early, I focused on the exterior – stuff like the west steps, the vertical surfaces of which were lined with the written word from many alphabets and symbolic systems.  Between the parallel staircases was a stepped fountain, the words “bright,” “lucid,” and “clear” inscribed on stone blocks.  Further along, a memorable quotation from Dr. Seuss:

The more that you read, the more things you will know.

The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.

I smiled when I read it, because Dr. Seuss captured the essence of my life.  There was more, lots more.  It’s just a fabulous building and grounds.

West steps, Los Angeles Public Library

From the shiny office towers on Bunker Hill, there’s a steep income slope down to Broadway, where lots of homeless ply the streets.  Walked north on Broadway, pausing to admire the interior of the Bradbury Building (1893), a historic office building best known for a light and airy atrium – such open inner space was largely unknown back then.  The local “chapter” of Occupy Wall Street was encamped around City Hall.  I continued north to la plaza and Olvera Street, the historic center from the city’s founding in 1781 as La Ciudad de Nuestra Señora de Los Angeles.  I stopped in the church of the same name, which the Franciscans built in 1814.  There were a few tourists inside, but mainly it was the faithful, many praying with vigor.  I joined them.

Atrium, The Bradbury Building

Exuberant commercial architecture from the 1920s

The 1814 Franciscan Church, Old L.A.

Tents, Occupy L.A., Los Angeles City Hall

The Transport Geek paused in front of the station, a lovely Spanish Colonial design, and listened for the sound of the Santa Fe’s Super Chief, the Southern Pacific’s Sunset Limited, and other famous trains that arrived here for decades.  Seventy or eighty years ago, the place would often have been hopping with movie stars and entertainers arriving on those and other trains from back east.  Today, the crowd was less starry, a curious mix of travelers.  I found my way to track 10 and Amtrak’s Coast Starlight, bound for Seattle, 1377 miles north.  I was headed 100 miles west to Santa Barbara.

Union Station

It had been more than 25 years since I had been on a long-distance Amtrak train.  Found my way to the observation car, which was remarkably similar to the glass “Vista-Domes” that my brother Jim and I loved to ride from Minneapolis to Chicago, enroute to visiting kin.  The T-Geek was in a good place, and I stayed in that car the whole way.  We headed west into the San Fernando Valley, stopping at Burbank Airport (across the parking lot I spotted a Silver Bird) and Van Nuys, then climbed up, through tunnels and into Ventura County, the train traversing fields of onions, carrots, and strawberries, past vineyards and orange groves labeled Sunkist, past shrub nurseries.  Field workers, immigrants, stooped in the sun, picking.  When we think of California, we may think of high tech and of entertainment, but agriculture is bigger than huge.

Beyond Oxnard, 55 miles west of L.A., the tracks met the ocean, almost literally.  For nearly forty miles, we skirted the beach.  We saw lots of surfers, a few swimmers (water temperature now is only a bit above 60 F), three dolphins.  Offshore, in the Santa Barbara Channel, were the oil rigs that the Sierra Club dislikes, but I emphatically would like more oil from there and less from places where people don’t like us.  Whoa.

The view from the tracks, literally on the beach

Amtrak’s Coast Starlight at Santa Barbara

Then we were in Santa Barbara.  I hopped off, snapped a couple of pictures of the train and the wonderful old depot, and ambled east on Yanonali Street to a deli I found online.  Had a big sandwich, then headed down to Stearns Pier and out onto the water.  Then into downtown to a Starbucks, to bring this journal up to date and recharge my iPhone battery (it got a lot of use on the train, capturing video and e-mailing it to Dylan and Carson, who love to watch what I call Pots TV).  I expected to see an affluent place, and that’s what I found.  Interesting, but a little too homogeneously nice for me.  I spent the last couple of hours at a brewpub watching game seven of the World Series.

The former Southern Pacific railway station, Santa Barbara

The postcard view of Santa Barbara

Back at the Amtrak station it looked a little chaotic.  There was a dark train on the platform.  My train, the southbound Coast Starlight, was due, according to the Amtrak website, at 7:03.  It arrived at about 7:20.  I immediately headed to the dining car, where a steward was cleaning up.  No dinner in the diner.  I settled for a bag of chips and a beer.  We set off at 7:40, rolled a couple of miles, then backed up and coupled with the disabled train to tow it to L.A.  We were finally underway at 8:30, and into Los Angeles 130 minutes late, at 11:10. Not the finest moments for the National Railroad Passenger Corporation.  I kept muttering “these people could learn something from the Swiss Federal Railways.”

The plan was for Linda to fly to L.A. Saturday morning, and we’d head to the Coliseum to see USC play Stanford, but she rang me way before dawn to say she was feeling poorly.  I decided to give the game a miss, so I changed flights and other arrangements, and turned off the light to try to get back to sleep.  Nope.  So I got up, went to the gym, and checked out.  Having missed dinner the night before, sustenance was the first priority.  And where better than The Pantry, a downtown L.A. fixture since 1924 and just a few blocks south of the hotel?  In no time I was on a stool at their counter, tucking into a huge cheese and sausage omelette and a larger pile of hash browns.  You can’t eat those breakfasts every day, but from time to time they are a total treat.  Hopped on the Metro blue and green lines out to LAX and flew home.  It was only three-plus days, but it seemed longer.  When I hopped into my Toyota, I remembered that Peter Quentin gave me a CD of his music.  I popped it in the player and started tapping my hand on the wheel.  A great set of songs from an old friend.

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