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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).